From my research and the literature on faculty development, I have found that there are seven keys to developing a successful faculty development program.

1. Fostering a climate that encourages faculty development.

It is not surprising that a reverberating theme throughout the literature is the vital importance of support and encouragement from the administration, especially the chief academic officer. If administrators see faculty development as a vital part of the mission, they will create an atmosphere conducive to faculty development. This means several things. Administrators must give visible recognition to faculty involved in faculty development and publicly reward their efforts. They need to provide resources (both financial and time) for faculty to participate. They need to make appearances at faculty development events held on campus. They need to serve as role models by paying attention to their own professional growth.

It is not sufficient to simply provide faculty with opportunities for growth. Administrators must also constantly scan the environment for impediments to faculty development and must ameliorate them. Paulsen and Feldman (1995) warn us that faculty development for improved teaching requires "more than good will ... More needs to be known about the existence and nature of various road blocks and how to remove them or get around them" (p. 132). They urge us to consider that "competing cultures, scarce resources, different sets of values about what is important, power differentials, intractable groups and people at today's colleges and universities all affect the implementation and effectiveness of programs" (p. 132).

2. Formalizing a well thought-out program that is clearly tied to the college’s mission.

In the past, many community colleges have approached faculty development in a makeshift manner offering faculty a wide array of mostly isolated and vaguely related sets of activities lacking clearly articulated goals and little or no follow-up support for sustained change. Unfortunately, these activities are rarely effective, failing to arouse much enthusiasm among faculty or generate sustained efforts toward improvement of teaching and learning. Therefore, they are unlikely to have any long-term effect on the college, the faculty, or student learning.

In order for faculty development activities to be effective at the individual level, development activities must be relevant to and focused on the work activities of the faculty member. However, to be effective at the institutional level, faculty development activities must also be intentionally focused on and relevant to the mission of the college. In a study of high- and low-performing community colleges, Richardson and Wolverton (1996) found that “professional development opportunities for faculty members in higher-performing institutions were linked in systematic ways to institutional priorities” (p. 46). On the other hand, “in several lower-performing districts, faculty had no clear sense of priorities” (p. 46). This leads directly to the next principle.

3. Balancing institutional priorities and individual needs.

Faculty development programs that are little more than a series of mostly voluntary, single-purpose, isolated or loosely related sets of disparate activities are unlikely to produce any real institutional change. Moreover, such programs rarely meet the expressed needs of the very faculty they are intended to help, and therefore, rarely produce changes in individual faculty members. The failure of faculty development efforts to produce discernable and lasting changes coupled with increasing demands for accountability and dwindling resources, calls for a new and systematic approach that embeds faculty development in the cultural fabric of the institutions and connects institutional and individual needs. "The new fiscal conditions require a different kind of faculty development, breaking from the past when teaching workshops, seminars, and consultation were all aimed at helping the faculty member become better at what he or she chose. The new faculty development approach asks each individual to identify an individualized contribution to the overall mission" (Ferren, 1997, p. 443).

Historically, faculty development programs have focused on developing individual faculty members’ skills with the hope that this would lead to institutional improvement. While these efforts have not paid the hoped-for dividends, it would be a mistake to simply shift the focus of faculty development entirely away from individual needs to institutional needs. Faculty development should balance the needs of the institution and the needs of the individual faculty member. “Whether faculty activities are considered productive or not depends on whether they relate to the faculty member's personal and professional goals and to the institution's mission" (Bland & Schmitz, 1990, p. 45). Focusing on one to the exclusion of the other will only squander resources and produce disappointing results.

4. Connecting faculty development to the reward structure.

To establish a climate that fosters and encourages faculty development, the administration must create a cultural ethos where excellence in teaching and efforts to improve teaching and learning are valued and rewarded. This is a two-pronged effort. The first is the public recognition of the excellence in the classroom. The second is the public recognition of faculty efforts to improve teaching and learning.

There are many ways to recognize excellence in teaching. For example,

  • teaching awards with a modest stipend
  • reduced teaching load
  • small grants to complete a teaching and learning improvement project
  • grants for books, software, and other teaching materials
  • grants for professional travel
  • a stipend for summer work

Recognition of excellence in teaching need not be costly. Many researchers have concluded that intrinsic motivation has a greater influence on faculty than extrinsic rewards. When faculty are recognized for their accomplishments, they develop professional pride. Professional pride can be a powerful motivator. Faculty recognized for excellence might be given a

  • title such as faculty associate or teaching mentor
  • plaque
  • framed certificate
  • gift certificate from a bookstore or restaurant

Because the intent is to create a culture where striving for teaching excellence is the norm, the recognition needs to be public. Some ways to publicly recognize excellent teaching are

  • special ceremonies
  • receptions
  • luncheons.

Efforts to create a climate that values teaching and learning also need to include praise and support for experimentation even when it fails. Faculty members need to know that their efforts are appreciated and that taking a risk is not damaging to their career.

5. Instilling a sense of faculty ownership in the process.

Research on adult learners tells us that adults learn when they have an intrinsic interest in what they are learning. Adults become intrinsically motivated when they can see the personal relevance and application of the learning. When these conditions are met, adults become self-directed learners, which is the ultimate goal of faculty development programs. Meeting these conditions starts with actively involving faculty in designing and implementing faculty development efforts. Faculty members will resist and resent any development plan imposed upon them.

Faculty members’ aversion to faculty development efforts imposed on them stems from their perception that these efforts fail to respect their professionalism. Faculty often perceive development activities as a paternalistic assault on professional autonomy that is motivated by the belief that faculty are somehow deficient or broken and need to be “fixed”. Development efforts that are part of a deficit model have a high probability of producing “poor attitudes and lack of long-term results" (Weimer, 1990, p. 22) on the part of faculty. When faculty are treated like the professionals they are and encouraged to take charge of their own development, success is much more likely.

6. Supporting colleagues’ investments in teaching .

The respect of and recognition by colleagues is important to most professionals. It is human nature to desire to be liked by colleagues. Studies have demonstrated that faculty (especially new and mid-career faculty) desire acceptance by their collegues. Moreover, these same studies find that faculty want to work with other faculty members because it is less threatening to learn about teaching from those who are also classroom teachers. While faculty often welcome the opportunity to work with others from different disciplines, they tend to believe that pedagogical problems and strategies are related to discipline, and thus are more likely to accept pedagogical advice from those within their own discipline.

7. Promoting the idea that good teaching is valued by administrators.

If teachers believe that good teaching is not valued, they have no incentive to improve. The best way for administrators to develop and sustain an effective faculty development program is to institutionalize the effort—i.e. make faculty development part of the fabric of the institution. Weave the effort into the institution in such a way that faculty view efforts toward developing as a teacher as an integral part of who they are as members of the faculty at your college.

Administrators can demonstrate that they value good teaching in many ways. They should never miss an opportunity to praise good teaching publicly. In addition to their words, they need to act by linking faculty development to existing reward structures and by creating new reward structures, such as those discussed above. Those leaders who wish to demonstrate that good teaching is the institution’s greatest priority also need to connect it to the most important rewards, i. e. tenure, promotion, and salary. Community colleges have for too long allowed “time served” to be the criteria for tenure and promotion. They need to signal faculty that teaching is what matters, not simple being there. The vast majority of faculty members know this and work long and hard to do a good job for their students. However, it is demoralizing when they see faculty who put in minimal efforts receive the same rewards.