Faculty Professional Development
If the promising practices described in the previous chapters are to take hold, then faculty members require support and training to implement them. This chapter describes several efforts to provide faculty members with professional development that is targeted at reformed instruction. These efforts span the continuum from future faculty to new faculty to veteran faculty.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF FUTURE FACULTY
Donald Gillian-Daniel (University of Wisconsin, Madison) discussed the issue of professional development for future faculty members—that is, graduate students and postdoctoral students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). He described the Delta Program in Research, Teaching, and Learning at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, which is designed to help current and future faculty succeed in the changing landscape of science, engineering, and mathematics higher education (see http://www.delta.wisc.edu/index.html).
The Delta Program is a prototype of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning, which seeks to develop and advance effective teaching practices (see http://www.cirtl.net). According to Gillian-Daniel, Delta and programs like it have three aims: (1) to improve undergraduates’ learning by better preparing the faculty who will teach them, (2) to prepare future faculty for the demands of their jobs, and (3) to change the culture of graduate education.
Delta is based on three core ideas: (1) teaching as research, (2) learning communities, and (3) learning through diversity. Teaching as research is the
idea that graduate students can apply disciplinary research skills to address questions about teaching and student learning in their classroom. Learning communities bring individuals together across disciplinary and generational boundaries to create and share knowledge. Learning through diversity is grounded in the view that each individual’s background enriches the learning environment. Gillian-Daniel hypothesized that the combination of these elements is crucial to the Delta program’s effectiveness.
Gillian-Daniel presented two examples to illustrate the Delta Program’s impact on teaching and learning.1 The first example addressed the effect of improved teaching on student learning. In that study, a Delta Program alumnus and his colleagues examined whether the combination of a multimedia learning object, lectures, and laboratory improved student learning about fuel cells (Lux et al., 2007). The researchers assessed the effect of the learning object with pre- and post-quizzes and used a web-based questionnaire to elicit student opinions about the value of the different course components. Correct responses on the quizzes increased from 42 percent in the pretest to 80 percent after the instructors introduced the learning object. In addition, 100 percent of the students in the laboratory were able to create a functional fuel cell (Lux et al., 2007).
The second example focused on the development of skills and pedagogical techniques in faculty members. In this example, a Delta Program alumna examined whether students who were taught with active learning strategies changed their views about such strategies in their own teaching (McNeil and Ogle, 2008). The researchers developed a seminar course that required students to prepare a 45-minute lecture on a topic in their discipline that incorporated one or more active learning techniques. Pre-post course evaluations included questions such as “If you were preparing a lecture, list the steps that you would go through.” After the course, students reported that they would take more steps to prepare for a lecture, including ones related to integrating active learning components (McNeil and Ogle, 2008).
Discussing gaps in the research, Gillian-Daniel cited the need for longitudinal studies to understand how professional development programs for future faculty affect their teaching practice throughout their careers. In a related vein, he called for longitudinal studies to examine how reformed teaching in introductory courses affects undergraduate students over the course of their college careers. He also stressed the importance of identifying the effective elements of existing programs, which would involve developing common metrics or benchmarks to measure program outcomes.
For additional examples of the Delta program’s effectiveness, see the workshop paper by Gillian-Daniel (see http://www.nationalacademies.org/bose/Gillian_Daniel_CommissionedPaper.pdf).
Finally, he said it would be useful to create a repository of instruments and data on various promising practices for researchers to use.
WORKSHOPS BY A PROFESSIONAL SOCIETY FOR NEW PHYSICS FACULTY
Ken Krane (Oregon State University) discussed the New Faculty Workshop in Physics and Astronomy, which he and his colleagues have been running since 1996. With financial support from the National Science Foundation, the workshop is sponsored by the American Association of Physics Teachers in partnership with the American Physical Society and the American Astronomical Society.
Krane and his colleagues developed the workshop to improve physics teaching at research universities, which they defined as any institution that awards an M.S. or a Ph.D. in physics. These institutions represent a high leverage point to affect teaching because they enroll the vast majority of students in introductory physics, produce the majority of physics majors, and hire the majority of physics faculty.
The New Faculty Workshop is an annual event. Over the course of 3 days, Krane explained, workshop developers seek to provide a coherent and interconnected set of paradigms for improving instruction. The workshops also promote research-based reforms that new faculty can adopt with minimal time commitment and minimal risk to their tenure status, according to Krane. Small-group and plenary sessions offer opportunities for new faculty to connect with innovators in physics education and physics education research and to form their own communities of practice as they implement effective teaching strategies.2
Krane and his colleagues measure the workshop’s success in terms of the following three goals:
Involve a significant fraction of the newly hired faculty in physics and astronomy.
Familiarize participants with recent and successful pedagogic developments.
Effect an improvement in physics and astronomy teaching when new pedagogies are implemented at home institutions.
Addressing these goals, Krane reported results from an evaluation of the program by Charles Henderson (2008). Henderson found that the
For more information, see the workshop paper by Krane (see http://www.nationalacademies.org/bose/Krane_CommissionedPaper.pdf) and the New Faculty Workshop home page (see http://www.aapt.org/Conferences/newfaculty/nfw.cfm).
workshop involves 20 to 25 percent of all the new hires in physics and astronomy. In addition, a survey of participants revealed the following (Henderson, 2008):
94 percent of current participants reported the desire to incorporate new ideas from the workshop into their teaching.
70 percent of former participants rate their teaching as more innovative than their colleagues’ teaching.
96 percent report changes in teaching methods since attending the workshop, and 40-60 percent of those indicate most or all of the changes are a direct result of workshop participation.
Krane (2008) also shared the following testimonial from a department chair at one of the institutions that sends a large number of participants to the New Faculty Workshop:
As a department chair, I believe that these workshops are more effective than I could ever be at convincing new professors that both the teaching and research they do will be recognized by their profession…. I believe the workshops have helped change the culture at [university] to place greater value on excellent physics teaching. Our younger faculty have come to believe this with an enthusiasm with which they are gradually infecting the entire faculty of my Department. I offer, as an indication of the progress which a dedicated cadre of faculty can achieve, the statistic that the number of physics majors graduated at [university] last spring was the largest in at least two decades. The improvement is not a statistical fluctuation, and represents a thorough reversal of the depressing decline in the number of majors at [university] through the 80s and 90s.
Three factors have contributed to the workshop’s success in the physics community, according to Krane. First, introductory physics courses across the country are remarkably similar, with similar challenges and approaches to addressing those challenges. As a result, a well established set of best practices exists around active engagement in physics classrooms. Second, the small size of the physics community means that one workshop can reach a significant portion of new faculty each year. Finally, Krane credited much of the workshop’s success to strong support from the physics professional societies. In particular, the backing of the research-based professional societies has enhanced the workshop’s credibility at the research universities, making department heads more likely to support faculty participation.
Rethinking Professional Development in Undergraduate STEM Education
Diane Ebert-May (Michigan State University) discussed her evaluations of two established faculty professional development programs: the NSF-funded Faculty Institutes for Reforming Science Teaching (FIRST) project and the National Academies’ Summer Institutes, funded by the Howard Hughes Foundation.3 The evaluations are guided by three research questions.
Do faculties change in response to professional development?
Are those changes in teaching sustained over time?
What factors contribute to the change pedagogy?
Of the 134 workshop participants in the institutes, 75 were involved in the evaluation study. The numbers of tenured and nontenured faculty were roughly equal, and 56 percent of study participants were female. Although most study participants were teaching at R1 institutions (institutions that focus primarily on research), Ebert-May said the study also included faculty from a variety of 2- and 4-year colleges and universities.4
Evaluators used the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) to rate participants’ videotaped lessons shortly after the institutes and again up to 2 years later. Developed by Evaluation Facilitation Group of the Arizona Collaborative for Excellence in the Preparation of Teachers, the RTOP is designed to determine the extent to which instructors are using reformed teaching in undergraduate science and mathematics courses (Piburn et al., 2000).
Ebert-May discussed five categories of teaching addressed by the RTOP, which represent a continuum from teacher-centered to student-centered activities. As she explained, category I is pure lecture; category II is lecture with some demonstration and minor student participation; category III involves significant student engagement with some minds-on and hands-on involvement; category IV includes active student participation in the critique and in carrying out experiments; and category V constitutes active student involvement in open-ended inquiry resulting in alternative hypotheses, several explanations, and critical reflection.
In Ebert-May’s evaluations, the majority of instructors fell into catego-
For more detailed information about the FIRST workshops, see https://www.msu.edu/~first4/Index.html. For more information about the National Academies Summer Institutes, see http://www.academiessummerinstitute.org/.
Research universities 1 (R1) offer a full range of baccalaureate programs and give high priority to research.
ries I and II. More than half of all study participants did not change their practice from the first videotaped lesson to the next; 25 percent of instructors in categories I and II moved toward more learner-centered strategies from the first lesson to the next; and 15 percent of instructors who started in the more learner-centered categories moved toward more instructor-centered practices over time.
Multivariate analyses of these data showed that years of teaching experience and class size influence RTOP scores. For example, instructors with more teaching experience were less likely to engage with students and have them work in cooperative groups, leading to lower RTOP scores. In addition, larger class sizes were associated with lower RTOP scores (i.e., scores that involve more lecture) (Ebert-May, 2000). However, these and other variables explained only 25 percent of the variation in RTOP scores, leaving 75 percent of the variation unexplained. In Ebert-May’s view, additional research is required to better understand why teaching varies.
Addressing Disciplinary and Institutional Culture
Cathy Manduca (Carleton College) spoke about her work with professional societies and at the departmental level to improve instruction in the geosciences. Data from the geosciences, she explained, indicate that faculty attend professional development workshops, learn new ideas there, and subsequently change their practice. Despite the success of professional development efforts, however, the geosciences community is frustrated that change is not happening quickly enough.
In Manduca’s view, it is possible to understand the change process by examining the cultures in which faculty members operate. She posited that faculty live in two different cultures—a disciplinary community, which emphasizes scientific research, and a broader institutional community, which is focused on the education enterprise. These cultures exert a strong influence on the extent to which faculty members change their teaching practice.
Discussing her work with professional societies, Manduca explained that uninformed faculty are at one end of the spectrum and those who actively research the impact of specific curriculum changes are at the other end. Informed faculty who make use of the research and observe how their teaching affects student learning are in the middle. Manduca’s efforts focus on disseminating information to increase the number of informed faulty. In contrast to other presenters at the workshop, she said that evidence alone is sufficient for geosciences faculty to change their practice.
Journal articles and meetings of professional societies, such as the American Geophysical Union, represent one vehicle for disseminating research and best practices to the geosciences community. On the Cutting
Edge, a project of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, is another important mechanism to help faculty stay abreast of geosciences research and teaching methods. According to the website (see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/about.html):
The workshop series and website combine to provide professional development opportunities, resources, and opportunities for faculty to interact online and in person with colleagues around the world who are focused on improving their teaching. An integral aspect of the project is development of an expanding community of geoscience educators with a strong and diverse leadership.
In all, 20 percent of geosciences faculty in the United States have participated in On the Cutting Edge, and 46 percent know about the program (Manduca, 2008a). Faculty from a wide variety of institutions, including R1 institutions, participate. Manduca said the workshop has legitimized teaching as a topic of discussion, oriented disciplinary research networks toward education, and created a culture of sharing information and resources.
Given that geosciences faculty turn to their colleagues for information on teaching, Manduca explained that departments are the most proximal source of support or discouragement for changes in practice. Departments are also important leverage points because they sit at the intersection of the institutional and disciplinary cultures described above. Acknowledging the importance of departments, Manduca described the Building Strong Geoscience Departments Program, which is designed to strengthen discussions of departmental issues in the disciplinary communities.5 According to Manduca (2008b), early data indicate that “this effort can claim to have developed a community within the discipline that is discussing depart mental issues and sharing their collective wisdom internally. The results of this work have demonstrably raised the level of discussion of accreditation. It cannot yet claim to be reaching the majority of departments” (p. 11).
For more detailed information, see the workshop paper by Manduca (see http://www.nationalacademies.org/bose/Manduca_CommissionedPaper.pdf).