The Community College Faculty Development Matrix: A Conceptual Model for Inquiry and Understanding

Article excerpt

Within the current economic crisis and in the midst of high levels of unemployment, the community college has been positioned as a major catalyst for economic stimulation by the Obama administration. To best prepare students for workforce entrance and transfer into four-year institutions, community colleges must deliver quality teaching which is enhanced by quality faculty development (FD). Few studies have been conducted that attempt to examine faculty engagement with and perceptions of FD at the community college. This paper presents a new conceptual model for unraveling how community college faculty understand and experience FD activities: the Community College Faculty Development Matrix. This model helped explain the findings of a small-scale study presented here, such as the importance of the differences between adjunct and full-time faculty needs and the call for technology-related FD activities.

Introduction

The American Association of Community Colleges (2009) has reported that 46 percent of all undergraduates are enrolled at community colleges. With tuition costs less than half of those at four-year institutions, this percentage is likely to continue to rise substantially in the current economy. Moltz (2008), commenting about enrollment for the fall of 2008, stated that "many colleges are projecting increases of around 10 percent over last fall [2007]" (para. 2). Many community colleges did in fact experience record-breaking enrollments during the fall of 2008 (e.g., ACC, 2008). At the same time, the economic crunch has limited the state appropriations allocated to community colleges. Enrollment booms and inadequate funding have created a unique blend of challenges for community college faculty and staff pelos, 2009; Majerus, 2009).

Juxtaposed with booming enrollments and limited funding is a prediction that many current community college faculty and staff members will be retiring over the next few years (Haworth, Jozwiak, Carter, «Sc Wilkin, 2007; Sprouse, Ebbers, & King, 2008). This is likely to result in a corresponding upsurge of hiring at community colleges across the country in the years to come. Among the challenges will be identifying, hiring, and developing competent instructors to meet the needs of current and future students while maintaining fiscal health. With their open-access policies, community colleges harbor incredible student diversity in terms of educational and socio-economic backgrounds (Brookfield, 2002). Consequently, faculty should possess both a wide variety of pedagogical knowledge and skills and a deep understanding of course content. Haworth et al. (2007) explicated: "because they [community college faculty] are asked to facilitate learning in what are arguably the nation's most diverse postsecondary classrooms, these faculty must possess a repertoire of teaching, learning, and assessment skills that effectively address the learning needs of all of their students." (p. 63)

However, many new community college instructors enter the field without a strong background in teaching and learning (Fugate «Sc Amey, 2000) and, unfortunately, faculty development may not be a top priority at community colleges (Murray, 1999; 2002).

Too little research has been conducted regarding community college faculty (Townsend «Sc Twombly, 2007) . Because community college faculty touch the lives of so many students, and will continue to do so in the future, research in this area is critical (Twombly & Townsend, 2008) .The present study explored the utility of a conceptual model for inquiry and understanding regarding community college faculty development: The Community College Faculty Development Matrix (CCFDM). Research questions guiding this study were: 1) How do community college faculty engage in faculty development? and 2) How do community college faculty perceive faculty professional development? An online survey (see Table 1) was sent to all faculty members of a three-campus region of a Midwest community college. …