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 goals. 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 program. 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. References Agee, A. S., & Holisky, D. A. (2000). Technology Across the Curriculum at George Mason University. Educause Quarterly, 23(4), 6-12. Retrieved August 30, 2003, from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/EQM0041.pdf The Campus Computing Project. (2001, October). The 2001 national survey of information technology in US higher education: eCommerce comes slowly to the campus. Retrieved August 30, 2003, from http://www.campuscomputing.net/summaries/2001/ The Center for Distributed Learning at the University of Central Florida. (2003a). Trends: UCF course sections by modality. Retrieved August 30, 2003, from http://distrib.ucf.edu/dlucf/rstsect.htm The Center for Distributed Learning at the University of Central Florida. (2003b). Trends: UCF enrollment by modality. Retrieved August 30, 2003, from http://distrib.ucf.edu/dlucf/rstenroll.htm Hartman, J. L., & Truman-Davis, B. (2001). Institutionalizing support for faculty use of technology at the University of Central Florida. In R. M. Epper & A. W. Bates (Eds.), Teaching faculty how to use technology: Best practices from leading institutions (pp. 39- 58). Westport CT: Oryx Press. Hutchison, K. R. (2001). Developing faculty use of technology: The Bellevue Community College experience. In R. M. Epper & A. W. Bates (Eds.), Teaching faculty how to use technology: Best practices from leading institutions (pp. 93-114). Westport, CT: Oryx Press. Instructional Development Initiative. (2002, September). 2002 annual report. Retrieved August 30, 2003, from http://www.fdi.vt.edu/Background/IDI_Report_02.pdf Morrison, J. L., & Brown, D. G. (2002, July/August). Faculty development that works: An interview with David G. Brown. The Technology Source. Retrieved August 30, 2003, from http://ts.mivu.org/default.asp?show=article&id=997 Pollock, C., Fasciano, D., Gervais-Guy, L., Hallee, R., Gingras, D., & Guy, R. (2001). The evolution of faculty instructional development in the use of technology at College Boreal, Ontario. In R. M. Epper & A. W. Bates (Eds.), Teaching faculty how to use technology: Best practices from leading institutions (pp. 59-78). Westport CT: Oryx Press.
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