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Faculty Development on Campuses

ladderMost faculty members at universities and colleges in the United States are evaluated on three areas of work: teaching, research, and service. We come into the job knowing how to be successful (more or less) in these areas of work. If you are like most, though, you don’t know as much in these areas as you would wish. This is where a faculty development office on your campus can be beneficial.

Historically, faculty development has been a catch-all term that included sabbaticals, grants, and external funding for conference travel, but over the past many years, the definition has expanded to support faculty member as a teacher, as a scholar, and as a community member. The role of many faculty development offices is to enhance teaching and learning on a university campus.

Faculty Development and Teaching
Need help engaging with students? Need some help with your presentation skills? Need help with mid-term evaluations?  Faculty development offices—often called centers for teaching and learning (or some variation)—can help you become a better teacher by providing resources that assist you in this important skill. At ProfHacker, we’ve discussed mid-term evaluations and many other subjects that can fall under the purview of FD offices. Faculty development offices can often help you design these evaluations and then administer them for you. Many FD offices work with course management systems (CMS) and other types of technology, and they offer training in these systems. In fact, good FD offices recognize that technology isn’t the only way to teach. Indeed, the FD office can often advise if a CMS will help (or hinder) achieving course goals. And the FD office can assist in course (re)design and identifying goals and outcomes for particular courses.

Faculty Development and Research
FD offices can often provide professional development in terms of training (the CMS example above). Additionally, the FD offices can work with other university departments to offer training in grant writing, in community service and outreach, administrative work, or supervisory skills.

Faculty Development and the Whole Person
The types of training the FD office can provide isn’t limited to technology. Building teaching portfolios, diversity training, new faculty orientations, adjunct faculty training, and even graduate teaching (GA, TA) training can all come from the FD offices.  Coupled with other university departments, the FD office can provide assistance for the faculty member and his/her specific role on a campus. FD offices can aid department chairs and deans, for example, with workshops that support those roles (“first time chair” workshops, for example).

But I can do it Myself!
Many university departments want to handle much of the above-listed issues themselves. Understandably so, as what works in one discipline might not work in another. However, the FD office can help you to not “reinvent the wheel.” The FD office may have information that could be modified for your particular situation.

Many faculty members do not want to take advantage of the services an FD office has to offer, as a faculty member may not want to appear “less-than-knowledgeable” about a particular issue. Much of the work an individual faculty member can do with the FD office can be confidential.

Faculty Development offices can be helpful places on most university and college campus. For additional information about faculty development offices in higher education, you might check out the POD Network (Professional and Organizational Network in Higher Education). POD is an amazing resource for the faculty development office on your campus that strives to better teaching and learning.

What about your campus? What kind of Faculty Development office does your campus have? What types of services does it offer? Please leave suggestions in comments below.

[Image by Flickr user Tanakawho and used under the Creative Commons license.]

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