Faculty Fellows Program Provides Incentives, Structure to Improve Teaching
Winston-Salem State University recently implemented its Faculty Fellows Program, a comprehensive, two-tiered model of faculty development to serve the diverse needs of tenure-track and tenured faculty members. The program was initiated by the Office of Faculty Affairs under the leadership of Associate Provost Denise Pearson in fall 2012 with a cohort of approximately 40 faculty members.
The goal of the program is to provide structure and incentives to encourage faculty members to improve their pedagogical strategies and to help them plan their career paths. Many of the workshops, which are offered through the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), are appropriate for all faculty members regardless of rank and are open to all faculty even if they are not in the Faculty Fellows Program. A major goal of the program is to take a systematic approach in which faculty benefit from being in a cohort.
“Whenever you’re in a community of teachers and scholars who are talking about teaching and actively working to learn new ways to improve their teaching, I think it’s invigorating just to be a part of that conversation,” says Tiffany Baffour, director of CETL.
The Faculty Fellows Program focuses on four major topic areas: students, teaching methods and pedagogy, materials and technology, and discipline-specific needs.
Junior Faculty of Distinction
Tenure-track faculty who participate in the Faculty Fellows Program work toward a Junior Faculty of Distinction Certificate. This requires successful completion of at least eight development workshops—four that focus on pedagogy, two on technology, and two activities of the participant’s choice, such as being part of a faculty learning community. Faculty can join an existing learning community or create one on a specific topic of interest to them. For example, a group of faculty created an interdisciplinary learning community on qualitative inquiry. This learning community held a series of monthly meetings and plans a full-day symposium for April 2013.
Participants also need to create a career development plan in conjunction with their department chair or faculty member that sets short- and long-term goals for teaching, research, and service.
Some of the workshops are designed specifically for junior faculty members. For example, a recent series focused on branding and professional development among new faculty, providing opportunities for participants to reflect on their area of specialization and what that means for their teaching, research, and service.
In recognition of their commitment to teaching, participants who successfully complete the program receive a $1,000 stipend, a certificate, and a provost-hosted event. Since one of the criteria for promotion and tenure is being able to demonstrate how one has worked to improve one’s teaching, faculty have a good incentive to complete the program, Baffour says.
Distinguished Master Teachers
The criteria and incentives for senior faculty are the same as for junior faculty; however, instead of creating a career development plan, senior faculty present a pedagogical workshop or poster presentation at a CETL event on topics such as
- Assessment of learning,
- Course design,
- High-impact instruction,
- Collaborative or cooperative learning,
- STEM education,
- Teaching inclusively,
- Revitalizing/maintaining work-life balance, and
- General education.
Although there has not yet been a formal quantitative assessment of the Faculty Fellows Program, qualitative feedback from the first cohort has been positive. Participants said they found being part of a community that discusses teaching has been helpful and that they like getting feedback from a variety of faculty members.
Several participants of the first group of Distinguished Master Teachers have been really interested and passionate about giving back to CETL. Although it is not required, several participants are conducting workshops with the information they have acquired through the program, a sign that the program has had positive effects on participants.
Baffour is working on implementing ways to formally evaluate the program. Possible techniques include comparing student evaluations before and after participation in the program and intensive interviews with participants. “I’m very interested in getting feedback from the group in terms of what worked well and what didn’t work well. … I’m curious to see how this group feels about the career development plan and whether or not it’s useful to them,” she says.
For more information, go to www.wssu.edu/academics/cetl/programs/faculty-teaching-fellows.aspx.