Faculty Development: The Hammer in Search of a Nail by ecPy2fo


									Faculty Development: The Hammer in Search of a Nail

by Anne Scrivener Agee, Dee Ann Holisky and Star A. Muir

Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source (http://ts.mivu.org/) as: Anne Scrivener Agee, Dee Ann Holisky, and
Star A. Muir "Faculty Development: The Hammer in Search of a Nail." The Technology Source, September/October 2003. Available online at
http://ts.mivu.org/default.asp?show=article&id=1067. The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

For 6 straight years, respondents to an annual survey on information technology in U.S.
higher education identified "assisting faculty integrate technology into instruction" as the
"single most important IT issue confronting their campuses" (The Campus Computing
Project, 2001, ¶ 10). To meet that challenge, nearly every institution has sponsored
some form of faculty development initiative, reasoning that faculty members must know
how to use technology before it can be integrated into instruction.

Faculty development programs may involve training classes, stipends, release time,
access to support staff, and/or the allotment of computer equipment in various
combinations. The University of Central Florida (UCF) for example, has focused its
resources on developing a large distance learning program and provides stipends and
support for faculty to encourage the development of online courses (Hartman & Truman-
Davis, 2001). As of spring 2003, the UCF Virtual Campus supported 806 sections for
more than 19,000 students (The Center for Distributed Learning, 2003a, 2003b). Using
the incentive of new computers for participants, Virginia Tech (VT) has enrolled
approximately 400 faculty members a year in its Faculty Development Institute,
which offers 3-day intensive computer skills workshops. A related initiative, the Center
for Innovation in Learning, has allocated more than 100 grants totaling more than
$3.1 million to VT instructors working on instructional redesign in high-demand areas,
including core curriculum courses, upper-level courses, and distance learning programs
(Instructional Development Initiative, 2002). Collège Boréal (Pollock et al., 2001) and
Wake Forest University (Morrison & Brown, 2002) have both used laptops to develop
faculty expertise in instructional technology.

There is no doubt that faculty development can be a powerful tool for change. The
question is, to what end is that tool being used? Many institutions have adopted a
scattershot approach that awards money and other resources to early adopters to
pursue their personal technology interests. Even programs that have evolved beyond
this approach often do not tie faculty development to anything more than general
improvement in the use of technology at the institution, or a simple increase in the
number of faculty members who use technology in instruction. Given the many demands
on institutional resources, it is critical to associate faculty development in technology
with the institution's strategic goals for the use of technology.

A Targeted Approach to Faculty Development

In 1998, George Mason University began implementing its award-winning Technology
Across the Curriculum (TAC) initiative (Agee & Holisky, 2000). TAC established a series
of 10 learning goals designed to ensure that George Mason students graduate with a
range of information technology skills; among these are the ability to create and use
structured electronic documents, to use electronic tools for research and evaluation, to
use databases to manage information, and to use graphic and multimedia
representational technologies. Building on this initiative, the University's faculty
development program has gradually evolved from generalized training and incentives for
technology use to a program targeted at specific technology learning goals for students.
Faculty development has become the hammer to help the university nail down the TAC

In its first 4 years, the TAC program invited faculty members to propose courses that
incorporated one or more of the TAC goals. After tracking the skills that instructors were
addressing or not addressing, the program leaders found that relatively few TAC courses
targeted the use of databases. Because many faculty members lacked the experience to
incorporate work with digital imaging into their courses, proposals for the use of
representational technologies also were scarce.

Believing that the dearth of proposals reflected a relative lack of faculty familiarity with
these technologies, the TAC program teamed up with the Instructional Resource Center
(IRC)—part of the University's Information Technology Unit—to design a faculty
development initiative that would encourage instructors to incorporate database and
imaging skills into their courses. The result was a series of three workshops on
databases and a series of two workshops on imaging. The IRC's instructional design
expertise, one-on-one mentoring, and assistance with developing online resources for
instructors were key elements in the success of the targeted workshops.

To participate in the first workshops, which were offered in spring 2002, faculty
members were required to submit proposals in which they described a specific
assignment that would promote database skills or imaging skills in their students. As an
incentive, the TAC program offered the applicants a $1,000 stipend and one-on-one
support from an instructional designer. Nine faculty members from a wide range of
departments participated in the database workshops; another 10 faculty members
participated in the imaging workshops.

Database Skills

The database workshops consisted of three sessions (fewer sessions would not have
provided sufficient time for the faculty members to develop a minimal comfort level with
the database program). The first workshop provided an introduction to relational
databases and allowed participants to work through a series of exercises specifically
focused on Microsoft Access. After the first workshop, participants met regularly with
an instructional designer who helped them develop their learning goals, begin drafting a
student assignment using databases, and plan the database they would need to
construct for students to complete the assignment. In addition, the participants did
background reading and additional database exercises. At the second workshop, the
faculty participants completed a group exercise in which they collected data, created a
database, and constructed queries for the database. For the third session, each faculty
member brought a CD that contained a completed database with sufficient entries to
perform test queries, as well as a final draft of the lesson plan for student use of this
database. During the final workshop, the participants presented their plans to each other
for discussion and critique, and each demonstrated his or her database product.

To achieve a complex goal in such a short time, it was necessary to establish two
important parameters. First, all faculty participants were required to use the same
database software (Microsoft Access) in their assignments. Second, the assignments had
to focus on the essential database skills that had been identified as part of the 10 TAC
information technology goals. Briefly, these skills involve entering data into a pre-
existing database, conducting queries, sorting data, and generating reports. This
particular workshop series was unable to support the development of assignments that
require students to create their own databases, although that topic may be addressed in
a later series.

The workshop participants created a variety of assignments, all of which were introduced
in courses taught the following semester (Fall 2002). For example, in an introductory
astronomy course, students collected data on specific stars in a telescope simulation,
entered the information into a database, queried the database for all stars that are
members of a specific cluster, and exported that data to a spreadsheet for further
manipulation (including graphing). In a course on Spanish in the United States, students
listened to speech samples, classified specific sounds, and recorded their classifications
in a database; they then queried the database in order to describe the general phonetic
features of different linguistic varieties represented therein (Exhibit 1). In a U.S. history
course, students input 1880 census records from the Wyoming Territory town of Laramie
into a pre-existing database and then queried the database as part of an attempt to test
the claims of historian Frederick Jackson Turner about the American frontier (Exhibit 2).
Students in business communication used a database to collect observations on
workplace culture and to illustrate workplace communication issues (Exhibit 3). In a
linguistics class, students used a speech database to test a hypothesis about the
accents of non-native speakers (Exhibit 4). More than 250 students completed these
database assignments in the first semester that they were incorporated.

Digital Image Skills

TAC developed a similar set of two targeted workshops to help faculty members design
assignments that incorporate representational technologies, such as digital images. The
workshops focused on TAC's basic goals for students in this area: the ability to
download, copy, rotate, crop, resize, and label images and insert them into a document
or Web page. The first workshop presented basic concepts about image formats and
characteristics as well as an introduction to the TAC Image Gallery, a database
designed to make images easily accessible to students completing assignments with
representational technologies. Faculty members also had the chance to manipulate
images directly with Adobe Photoshop and to discuss and analyze successful
assignments that require students to use digital images.

As with the database workshops, participants met with an instructional designer who
helped them articulate learning goals and begin to draft a student assignment. The
second workshop provided additional information on tools for working with digital
images and on technical support available to faculty members and students. After
getting more hands-on practice in manipulating and annotating images, the participants
shared their plans for assignments. Later the TAC staff and instructional designers
created step-by-step instructions for manipulating images and worked with faculty
members to add images to the TAC Image Gallery.
The range of assignments developed in these workshops was impressive. One instructor
asked students to incorporate images as evidence in a history research paper; another
required students to build an "electronic scrapbook" with maps, images, and news items
to develop an understanding of anthropological concepts. In a philosophy course,
students were asked to used images to illustrate their discussion of the Information
Society (Exhibit 5). In an English course that shares readings and assignments with a
history course, students were required to manipulate a graphic reproduction of a
particular piece of art, focusing on both the entire image and selected sections of it
(Exhibit 6).

As a result of the database and digital image workshops, many more students are being
asked to use technology to enhance their learning—which is the exact goal of the TAC

Benefits for Students, Faculty Members, and Institutions

How is this targeted approach different from previous faculty development programs?
First, faculty development is no longer an end in itself; rather, it is tied to student
learning and advances the curricular goals set by the faculty. In earlier models, faculty
workshops on databases or digital imaging might or might not have resulted in any
curricular development or new student learning in these areas. The TAC approach helps
instructors not only learn new technologies, but also develop assignments that require
students to use technology skills as part of their learning in one or more discipline areas.

Second, the targeted approach increases the impact of money spent on faculty
development. Earlier approaches focused on individual faculty members who made their
own decisions about the use or absence of technology in particular courses or sections of
courses. The new model focuses on teams of instructors and on department-wide
approaches to integrating technology. As a result, technology assignments developed
through the workshops will become part of an ongoing library of assignments available
to other faculty members. Stipends are not given to faculty members just for attending
workshops; instructors are expected to design new student assignments in the
workshops, implement the assignments in courses, and evaluate the results.

It is often difficult to assess the impact of more traditional models of faculty
development, but the TAC program provides clear benchmarks related to student
learning. Assessment centers on students' use of the assignments created during the
workshops. Although a formal analysis of the success of these assignments is still
forthcoming, anecdotal evidence suggests that they do help students use the targeted
technology. Commenting on the database assignment that his class completed, one
faculty member noted, "The database assignment was a success. . . . The students
definitely learned how to make a focused linguistic hypothesis, they were able to test it
using the database, and I even think they learned about the virtues of a database."
Another faculty member said, "Many students already had database skills, while others
had none; however, those who did not learned the logic behind relational databases. The
main benefit of the assignment (which was the original intent) is that students were able
to see patterns among the functions of different business cultures while seeing the
unique natures of particular cultures."

Third and finally, the targeted approach addresses specific faculty learning needs. Rather
than offer a generic seminar on databases and/or on database software, for example,
TAC conducts detailed workshops to help instructors gain the knowledge and skills
necessary to integrate databases into their course design. With this methodology,
activities can be sequenced to meet different levels of faculty skill and different tiers of
curriculum development in a particular discipline. Moreover, because individual
mentoring is built into the activities, instructors get attention and development just
where they need it.

Aimed at the right nail, faculty development is a powerful hammer for achieving
institutional goals.


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