Promoting Self-Authorship of College Educators: Exploring the Impact of a Faculty Development Program

Article excerpt

While the literature on self-authorship has focused on the development of college students and young adults highlighting various developmental tasks associated with the ages 17 through 30 (e.g., Baxter Magolda, 2001, 2003, 2004), in this article, we explore the exercise and development of faculty members' self-authorship as educators, proposing that individuals' self-authorship continues to develop throughout their lives as they grow into new roles and engage new domains. Our study focuses on 12 instructors who participated in a unique faculty development opportunity at a large, urban, research I university and explores how the faculty training program affected faculty self-authorship as educators, specifically the ways in which instructors relate to (a) knowledge and their discipline, (b) themselves as educators, and (c) colleagues and/or students. We conducted semi-structured interviews which were transcribed and analyzed. Findings indicate that the program, like others that manifest the Learning Partnerships Model (Baxter Magolda, 2004b), helped instructors exercise and further develop their self-authorship as educators and that engaging with colleagues from various disciplines influenced instructors' perceptions regarding themselves as educators, their teaching practices, and the nature of knowledge. The significance of our findings lies in the potential to guide the design, implementation, and evaluation of similar professional development programs. Additionally, the study contributes to the understanding of the critical concept of self-authorship in professional contexts and suggests how self-authorship enables individuals to meet new, domain specific challenges.


At a recent instructional development program on how to give students feedback in a clinical setting, a faculty member from the school of medicine remarked that, as a physician, he was in "an unusual position." He said, "I have never been taught how to teach! It just isn't part of our medical training." He expected our surprise, but of course we, as faculty developers, have heard similar comments from faculty members across the disciplines. People who recognize themselves as experts in every discipline from accounting to art history often tell us, as if confessing, that they have come to the profession without preparation for their roles as teachers. However, this is not unusual at all. Faculty members are often not trained as teachers (Tanner & Allen, 2006) and thus may not get the opportunity to develop identities as educators during the formal training in their disciplines. As a result, the task of "self-authoring" a professional identity as an educator is accomplished "on the job," as faculty members gain experience and learn about themselves, their students, and the nature of learning.

The literature on self-authorship has focused on the development of college students and young adults, highlighting various developmental tasks associated with the ages 17 through 30 (e.g., Baxter Magolda, 2001, 2003, 2004; Kegan, 1994) and former research has investigated how pedagogical and programmatic reforms in higher education can facilitate college students' self-authorship (e.g., Baxter Magolda, 2001,2003,2004; Baxter Magolda & King, 2004; Hornak & Ortiz, 2004; King & Baxter Magolda, 2004b; Pizzolato, 2003). Meanwhile, literature on faculty members' self-authorship as educators and research on opportunities that help faculty members exercise and develop their self-authorship is lacking. This study contributes to the literature by investigating these topics.

Additionally, this study suggests that individuals' self-authorship enables them to grow into new roles and engage new domains. Classic theories of cognitive development and the literature on self-authorship suggest global development regardless of domain and context (Kail, 2004). Our experiences align with Neo-Piagetian theories which suggest variations in how self-authorship is exercised within different developmental levels depending on the context or domain (Case, 1992; Demetriou, Christou, Spanoudis, & Platsidou, 2002; Halford, 1993; Pascual-Leone, 1970). …