An Experiential Learning Model of Faculty Development to Improve Teaching

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article introduces a model for faculty professional development. The National Research Council (2009) indicated that graduates of colleges of agriculture must be prepared to work in a complex world using skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and leadership. However, critics of higher education have insisted that many college graduates do not possess these desired skills and are increasingly underprepared to enter the workforce. To help better prepare students, instructors should focus on effective teaching strategies that engage students and promote learning. However, most faculty members are hired for their expertise in research and have little preparation in pedagogical techniques. Therefore, faculty development programs that teach instructors effective instructional methods are necessary. This article proposes an experiential learning model of faculty development, which consists of three stages, including planning, delivery, and evaluation. The model utilizes field experiences, reflection, and peer observation to help college instructors learn how to implement and use various instructional methods. The experiential learning model presented in this paper could help college of agriculture instmctors become more effective in their teaching, thus meeting the call to improve undergraduate learning.

Introduction

The world around us is rapidly changing. Increasing globalization of businesses, constantly changing technologies, and a continually growing world population are a few of the issues we face (National Research Council, NRC, 2009). Moreover, in the midst of these concerns, we face the unique challenges of climate change, creating renewable energies, and feeding the increasing population (NRC, 2009). To combat these and other issues, we will need highly educated leaders, scientists, and a workforce capable of thinking critically and solving the complex problems faced by society.

Tlie burden of preparing this next generation of leaders, scientists, and workers for the challenges that lie ahead rests on the shoulders of America's colleges and universities (NRC, 2009). The key to solving society's problems will be the human capital that colleges and universities produce, that is, graduates entering the workforce (NRC, 2009). The Kellogg Commission (2000) dubbed this "the promise of American public higher education" (p. 9). Namely, higher education has an obligation to serve as the bridge between the public and the knowledge needed to solve complex issues (Kellogg Commission, 1999). Therefore, the question that must be asked is, are college graduates being adequately equipped for the challenge?

Manybelieve college graduates are notprepared for the future and have insi sted on changes in undergraduate education (Barr and Tagg, 1995; Bok, 2006; Boyer, 1990; National Commission on the Future of Higher Education, 2006; NRC, 2009). The NRC (2009) called for changes in the way undergraduates are taught, citing specifically global integration, new science, consumer influence, environmental concerns, and demographic and political shifts as factors contributing to this need. In 2006, The National Commission on the Future of Higher Education suggested that American college students are receiving a substandard education, while Bok (2006) opined that universities cannot continue to rely on methods that have worked in the past, but need to place greater importance on innovation and educational quality. Both the National Commission on the Future of Higher Education (2006) and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (2002) proposed that graduates are underprepared for the workforce, lacking skills such as writing, critical thinking, and problem solving. These claims are compelling and highlight the need to change the way undergraduates are educated.

The most appropriate place to start looking at how to transform undergraduate education is to examine teachers. …