Professional Development for Teaching in Higher Education
Faculty members in higher education typically have been trained in their subject matter but not in pedagogy (Austin, 1992; Healey, 2000). With increased concerns over the rising cost of college, traditional institutions of higher education face scrutiny and external challenges to their stability. Higher education groups and the public at large have called into question the teaching skills and preparedness of faculty members (Altbach, 2011), often criticizing their lack of interest in teaching and preference for research (Advisory Committee to the National Science Foundation, 1996). As a result, a growing number of institutions have developed means for supporting and enhancing teaching on campus. Despite studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of such programs (Coffey & Gibbs; 2001; 2004; Van Note Chism & Szabo, 1998), faculty participation in professional development for teaching remains low (MacKinnon, 2003; Sorcinelli, 2006). This mixed-methods study uses survey and interview data from full-time faculty (n = 432) at two research-intensive universities in the Northeastern United States to determine their attitudes and preferences regarding professional development for teaching in order to increase participation rates. Statistical tests showed significant differences by demographic groups; female and non-tenure track faculty are more likely to attend professional development, more likely to view it positively, and more likely to feel it is undervalued on campus. No significant differences were found by discipline or institution. Semi-structured, follow-up interviews were conducted with 11 faculty members. The findings showed that faculty perceive that their institutions do not value teaching. With limited time, faculty feel compelled to prioritize research over teaching, despite wanting to devote more attention to teaching. Other issues they discussed were: work-life balance, lack of preparation for teaching in graduate school, preferred topics and formats for programs, messages received from the administration, and the desire to collaborate with other faculty. The findings are analyzed using Bronfenbrenner's (1979; 1993; 1995) ecological systems theory to develop a full picture of faculty members' ecologies. The study concludes with recommendations for program facilitators, administrations, and future research.