Re-Assessing Faculty Development

Re-Assessing Faculty Development
By Dr. Ernesta P. Pendleton Whether full-time, adjunct, tenured, young or old, college and university faculty are perceived by students as the institution itself. Students judge the institution largely by the faculty that stand before them. Therefore, an institution would do well to treat faculty as what they are — its greatest resource. So claims the Associated New American Colleges (ANAC) Faculty Work Project as detailed in McMillan and Berberet’s A New Academic Compact (2002). This exciting work and other recent literature have indicated the need for more attention to faculty development on our campuses.The desire for ongoing faculty development has been a recognized feature in higher education policy since the 1970s. However, today’s non-traditional students and demands for greater efficiencies, cost-effectiveness, technological competence, institutional quality and sound governance keep this issue in the forefront. In an attempt to revisit the relationship between faculty and their institutions, the ANAC set out to examine the philosophical underpinnings of academic policies with respect to faculty development needs. Several observed changes in higher education culture prompted this reconsideration. For instance, has the relationship changed in any way as a result of an increase in older, working, or underprepared students coming to campus? Now that the baby boom generation of faculty has reached post-tenure status and show few signs of retirement, what efforts are being made to keep them energized for continued effectiveness? What is the relationship between traditional academic culture and today’s management culture with respect to institutional governance? These and other questions are receiving critical attention as institutions grapple with emerging priorities and the need to effectively promote student learning and institutional missions.Support for the traditional tripartite higher education mandate for research, teaching and service has kept faculty busy balancing the three areas in their desire for promotion and recognition at their respective institutions. Traditionally, research has been the cornerstone of tenure policies, yet effective teaching is gaining respect as well. New definitions of service are surfacing as it relates to scholarship and institutional quality. More importantly, quantification procedures are being reconsidered in determining workload, and more creative ways of rewarding faculty for their time and effort are being advanced. In short, some institutions are beginning to more consciously value and reward citizenship in the academic community. The ANAC and others believe that faculty satisfaction is a good barometer of institutional health. While faculty generally like the autonomy of their academic roles, many complain that their voice in the actual decision-making at the institution is minimal, workload is unfair and rewards are few. It is for this reason that faculty development programs were initiated. A good faculty development program is a process designed to create a climate where recognition, institutional support and professional development are addressed. My own research into faculty satisfaction shows that intrinsic rewards such as recognition among peers outweigh extrinsic rewards such as salary as a consideration in institutional longevity. Other studies have also found faculty satisfaction in institutional and peer affiliations to be important. Central to any college or university mission is the goal of student learning. In most instances, curricular decisions rest within faculty units. What better way to assure an effective curriculum than through a deliberate plan of faculty development that recognizes faculty as having different needs throughout their careers? An institution that supports and encourages faculty initiative, innovation and productivity provides an infrastructure for accomplishing its own mission. — Dr. Ernesta P. Pendleton is a program analyst in the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of the District of Columbia.



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