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Faculty-Development Sessions

I met my wife at a faculty-development session, so I must admit to a soft spot in my heart for the year-opening activities. In spite of that, I also know that faculty-development workshops are less than popular for many people. Two of my past experiences speak to all-too-frequent frustrations.

In the first, the dean of instruction invited some quack/speaker to help us with stress management. Classes started the next day, but we were herded into a room where a guy who closely resembled the holistic healer on Seinfeld spent two hours teaching us to imagine that our stress was tea in a cup: “How large is the cup? Is it a demitasse? Is it a pint? Name its size: Now, pour it out.” In this case, the workshop felt like an utter waste of time.

In the second instance, however, the dean forced us to come in on a Saturday morning at 8, with no excuses allowed. We all sat together in a room, every discipline on campus represented in full force, and a counselor spent three hours teaching us how to do a drug intervention, again reminiscent of another Seinfeld episode. By the time we were dismissed after numerous practice sessions, we were angry at having our time stolen from us. I later heard that the expert was one of the dean’s best friends and that he had been paid a ridiculous fee. In that case, the workshop felt more like administrative bullying.

At my campus, we have workshops before each semester, but we have breakout groups that deal with many issues, from technology to student demographics to philosophy to balancing teaching and scholarship. We have found these to be highly productive and a great use of faculty time. We are careful to limit the offerings to a single morning, and we run evaluations to see if they were useful to most of the attendees.

What suggestions might you offer to faculty-development committees as they head into a year’s planning?

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