New book explores the co-evolution of faculty training with educational trends

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LAWRENCE – Since the 1970s, colleges and universities have seen an increase in faculty development, or programs designed to help faculty improve their teaching. These teaching and learning centers have adapted their approaches just as classroom pedagogy has shifted towards student-centered and student-led approaches. “At the crossroads of pedagogical change in higher education: exploring the work of faculty developers”, co-authored by a professor at the University of Kansas, tells the story of the centers, drawing on interviews with faculty developers and literature in the field and higher education.

Heidi Hallman, professor of curriculum and teaching at KU, and Melanie Burdick, professor of English at Washburn University, decided to write the book after considering a question posed by a former mentor and colleague: ” What do you think about preparing teachers for a time of change in higher education? This question posed to CTL directors across the country set the stage for the book. The interviews reflected the changing times in the way teacher-researchers approached their work. Earlier eras could be seen as those of the teacher or the learner, but the authors point out that faculty development today is in the “era of the pivot”. Just as the pandemic has forced schools to switch to online and virtual models, those who train teachers have had to adjust their approach to their work.

“Hearing about these experiences, even before the pandemic, helped us think about the speed of these changes and how faculty developers have been in this constant state of evolution and dealing with changing expectations,” said Hallman said.

Prior to the pandemic, when the interviews were conducted, higher education had entered a state of “projectification,” the authors wrote. Higher education was increasingly subject to a business model, in which efficiency and responsiveness to budgets were increased, and institutions had to be more accountable to stakeholders such as legislatures and funders. . The teacher-researchers interviewed recount how this affected their work, and the chapters also retrace how their work has shifted from individualized training to collaborative approaches to interdisciplinary work.

“I think as a teacher sometimes we only see things in our own discipline,” Hallman said. “The teacher-researchers we interviewed helped demonstrate how we are in the same boat and how we can all learn from each other, and not just rely on our own disciplines. “

The authors also examine how the focus on improving diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education has also influenced the world of faculty development. Although the goal of improvement in these areas is lofty, interviews have shown that it has resulted in more training, but it is not clear whether this extra effort has really improved which is included in the continued development of the education or whether it is fair, the authors said. .

“At the Crossroads” also chronicles how the rise of online, hybrid and highly flexible learning in the classroom has spread to faculty development and how new concepts such as universal design for learning have also entered. in the fray. When such approaches seek to tailor curricula and instructional approaches to help individual students, faculty development could also benefit from individualizing their approaches, the authors wrote.

“The goal of professional learning should be for it to be continuous and to happen over time. If we are looking to help everyone, the initiatives should have a stand-alone aspect. Such initiatives should also focus on things like a faculty’s career stage, stage of development and specific needs, ”Hallman said.

Throughout the book, Hallman and Burdick – the latter a graduate student of Hallman’s – share the experiences of faculty developers and how their work reflects the larger field. Some were naturally drawn to the job, while others were more pushed or appointed to do the job. Where some were fairly novices, others had worked in the field throughout their careers. While some were nostalgic for the past, others expressed enthusiasm for the new possibilities, and some led well-established CTLs in large institutions while others occupied a more informal position in smaller schools. All of them, however, offer valuable insight into faculty development and improving the work of higher education.

After a review of student teaching evaluations and how teacher involvement in work can produce improved teaching, the book concludes with an overview of where the field stands today. Even before the pandemic, the educational change affected faculty development work. While the pandemic has forced a sudden shift to online and virtual approaches, it has simultaneously raised difficult questions about equality in education and provided an opportunity for positive change. Burdick and Hallman have argued that while the past may help illustrate the path of faculty development and scholarship in teaching and learning, it remains to be seen how education will respond to the pandemic and to other societal challenges.

“The directors of CTL and all faculty developers really find themselves at a crossroads where we must deal with the delicate and unpredictable acts of teaching amid a global pandemic and racial upheaval. At the same time, universities bow to the direction of a business model, embracing the ideals of academic capitalism and efficiency through projectification, ”they wrote. “Whether these conflicting crossroads can merge into combined or parallel lanes may depend on how faculty and students are integrated into the mapping. Faculty developers will undoubtedly continue to be at the heart of the changes, as they are the ones who will support faculty and identify the best ways to teach and learn on the road ahead.

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