|Volume 20, Number 3||1995|
New faculty members at a college or university are often hired because they are experts in a discipline. At colleges of veterinary medicine, the new faculty member is rarely "expert" in the discipline of college teaching. New faculty may be aware that such a discipline exists but are unlikely to be conversant in the current literature of the discipline. The faculty members are also likely to be aware that the discipline of public speaking or speech exists but may have no formal training in the area. This is in contrast to their training in the area of their research discipline. This training has usually been rigorous, is highly specific, and has been designed to prepare the new faculty member for success in research and service (1). Given these circumstances, it is not surprising the teaching skills of new faculty members are immature compared to their research skills.
In the prevailing climate of the last ten years, new faculty members have been encouraged to continue to develop their research skills to obtain promotion and tenure and have been told that they should be at least an adequate, if not a good, teacher. Current forces, both external and internal to the university, are questioning the wisdom of the apparent subjugation of teaching to research. Administrators rush to deny any subjugation or state the time-honored euphemism that excellence in research is necessary for excellence in teaching. Adding to the appearance of subjugation of teaching is the difficulty that administrative bodies have had in fostering, recognizing, defining, documenting, and rewarding excellence in teaching (2).
Historically, the focus of much administrative evaluation of teaching has been punitive. Interactions only occur when a student complains that the faculty member gave a poor, disorganized lecture or even worse (perhaps better) neglected to show up for class. The development of innovative teaching strategies has been regarded as scholarly activity but has not been valued equally with more traditional research efforts. Recently, the development of teaching paradigms and associated educational materials has begun to receive increased recognition as scholarly activity in some colleges of veterinary medicine. The focus of this article is to outline some methodologies through which administrators (deans, assistant deans, department chairs, section heads) can foster excellence in teaching by promoting faculty development.
Administrative support for enhancing teaching and thus the education of veterinary students can be divided into a number of parts (3). The first is attitudinal and involves the creation of an academic climate that values excellence in teaching (4, 5). Administrators should make it clear throughout the recruiting, hiring, and promotion of faculty that they, their department, their school or college, and their university value teaching. Faculty perceive that the university climate of the last ten years has valued research over teaching. This imbalance is appearing to moderate somewhat; but it is apparent that faculty still believe that the university, college, or departmental hierarchies do not value teaching as much as research and publication. This is not to negate or lower the value of research. This is to say that in order to overcome the faculty perception of the undervalue of teaching, administrators must make it a point to emphasize the value of teaching.
A second method whereby administrative support of teaching can be demonstrated is by assigning time to develop educational methods and materials. A few colleges of veterinary medicine assign nontenured faculty to develop new methods of information delivery and assimilation. Such an assignment could be deadly to a faculty member's career unless there is a clear definition of how success in such an endeavor will be measured and rewarded for the purposes of promotion and tenure decisions. Short of such specific assignments, all faculty members need to be assigned time to develop their course objectives, instructional outlines, and teaching materials. The time required to develop such materials is particularly important in the first few years of employment of new faculty as courses are taught and lectures are given for the first time. The need for such time should not be overlooked for all faculty members because of the need to update and modify both their teaching material and methods.
A third method of providing administrative support is to relieve faculty of menial teaching tasks by providing or making obtainable methods for production of audiovisual materials to enhance teaching and learning. Computer programs are available that allow rapid generation of remarkably good text slides. Some schools have audiovisual production areas which assist faculty members in the production of a wide variety of materials including slides, videotapes, and computer programs. The development of such in-house units is expensive but they are valuable. At a minimum, methods of slide production, film development, and a network of locally available artists should be provided to faculty. Other means of reducing drudgery include production and copying of class notes and tests, and development of evaluation instruments. Scoring of exams and the paperwork associated with grading is another burden easily relieved. Likewise room and class scheduling should be centralized and administratively supported.
A fourth method of support is through the development of workshops or seminar series about teaching. Faculty members from the college should be encouraged to share their experiences. Typically, faculty members have attempted a variety of teaching strategies and have adopted those that work well with their personality and material. This experience should be shared with other faculty members through a seminar series. In addition, most schools or colleges of veterinary medicine share a campus with colleges of education, department of agricultural education, or similar groups. Often these groups are almost missionary in their zeal to promote excellence in education and their willingness to assist in faculty development programs.
A fifth method is to identify professors within both the school or college and university who can serve as mentors to young faculty members. Each faculty member should feel that they have a vested interest in the success of their fellow faculty members. This process can be facilitated through team-taught courses where the team leader or senior team members are natural advisers. Faculty should be encouraged to attend other faculty members' lectures, not to copy other lecturers but rather for exposure to a variety of teaching styles. Some faculty may have been in such an atmosphere during their graduate program, but as previously stated, many training programs do not address such issues. Such mentoring arrangements can be formal or informal but are an important faculty support network.
A sixth method is to engage the services of a professional educator whose training or expertise is in faculty evaluation and development. Such a commitment might be made on a full-time, partial appointment, or consultant basis. These programs are considerably more effective as ongoing rather than sporadic enterprises. Such expertise is particularly valuable in the context of a series of evaluations of teaching. The professional can suggest improvements, then attend a later teaching period and offer positive reinforcement and continued suggestions for improvement. Credibility of the professional is key. Other benefits of such a position are in the development of exam questions and evaluation of teaching instruments and in documenting teaching growth and maturation.
A seventh method is for administrators to personally evaluate and assist faculty in improving their teaching methods. The importance is that it reinforces that the chair values teaching and has a personal interest in each faculty member. If the chair is uncomfortable in such a role, a committee of senior faculty members could provide the necessary feedback both to the faculty member and the chair. Again, such programs should be ongoing rather than sporadic. There must be a clear distinction between evaluations designed to enhance teaching (formative) and evaluations used to measure effectiveness of salary, promotion and tenure purposes (summative). Programs that focus only on the year immediately preceding promotion and tenure proceedings will be seen as summative rather than formative. Further, when limited to this time frame, such programs will have ignored the early developmental years of a faculty member's career. Administrative and peer evaluations should complement student evaluations and allow documentation of teaching growth and effectiveness. Methods or models of systems for evaluation and documentation are available (6-12).
An eighth method is to promote faculty retreats on teaching and learning. Properly planned, such retreats allow faculty to share information and opinions on educational styles and methods and allow groups to define their goals and objectives. Retreats should not attempt to cover a broad variety of subjects, but should focus on a single topic or two. If a number of topics need to be discussed, break them up into smaller sessions on separate dates. In large groups the discussion of a topic is facilitated by assigning small groups of faculty to investigate what is known and summarize their ideas prior to the retreat (13).
A ninth method is to involve departmental faculty in college, university, and national committees on education. Participating faculty members engage in discussion with educators from other disciplines and discover resource persons who can be of benefit to the entire faculty. In addition, participating faculty members are enticed to examine and define their own and other faculty members' approaches to education and to explore alternative methods. On a national basis the sharing of educational information and technology is and will continue to be a necessity as resources become more and more limited.
A tenth method is through a series of teaching awards. Often such awards are viewed cynically by faculty members. One or two teaching awards should not be seen as replacing a program of teacher development. They are not enough, but they do provide motivation and recognition for some faculty. The majority of teaching awards are linked to student evaluation of teaching. These should not be devalued, but additional peer-based awards serve to highlight areas (not immediately apparent to the student body) such as curricular development or innovative teaching material development. Such awards should be well publicized and acknowledged as important.
In summary, administrative evaluation and support are key components in the attainment of effective teaching through faculty development. Foremost is the development and nurturing of an atmosphere that values excellence in teaching. In addition, a variety of programmatic efforts, as described in this paper, should be implemented on a continuing basis. Reliance on one or a few of these methods or short-term efforts will not provide sufficient support to promote effective teaching. In fact, short-term and discontinued programs may even damage attempts at promoting effective teaching. In the words of William Arrowsmith: "If you want to restore a druid priesthood, you cannot do it by offering prizes for the druid of the year. If you want druids you must grow forests." (14)
References and Endnotes
1. Pritchard WR: Future Directions of Veterinary Medicine. Pew National Education Program. Durham, NC: Duke University, 1988.
2. Seldin P: Changing Practices in Faculty Evaluation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1984.
3. Aleamoni LM: Proposed system for rewarding and improving instructional effectiveness. Coll and Univ 51:330-338, 1976.
4. Seldin P: How Administrators Can Improve Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990.
5. Lucas AF: The Department Chairperson's Role in Enhancing College Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1989.
6. Irby DM: Peer review of teaching in medicine. Jour of Med Educ 58:457-461, 1983.
7. Irby DM: Evaluating instruction in medical education. Jour of Med Educ 58:844-849, 1983.
8. Shore BM, Foster SF, Knapper CK, et al.: Guide to the Teaching Dossier, Its Preparation and Use, revised ed. Ottawa, Ontario: The Canadian Association of University Teachers, 1986.
9. Rippey RM: The Evaluation of Teaching in Medical Schools. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 1981.
10. Braskamp LA, Brandenburg DC, and Ory JC: Evaluating Teaching Effectiveness, a Practical Guide. CA: Corwin Press, Inc., 1984.
11. Seldin P: How colleges evaluate professors. AAHE Bulletin 41:3-7, 1989.
12. Ory JC: Teaching and Its Evaluation, a Handbook of Resources. Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois.
13. Freemen LC and Muir WW: Teaching basic science to veterinary students: a syllabus for an in-service course. Jour of Vet Med Educ 16:8-10, 1989.
14. Arrowsmith W: The future of teaching. In Lee CBT (Ed): Improving College Teaching. Washington, DC: American Council on Education, 1967, pp 57-71.