Staffing of Teaching and Learning Centers in the United States: Indicators of Institutional Support for Faculty Development

Article excerpt

This quantitative study reports data from nearly 200 teaching and learning development units (TLDUs), regarding their current staffing levels compared to the number of FTE faculty and FTE student enrollment. The study found that these staffing ratios at primary TLDUs vary by both institutional control and by Carnegie classification: in general, private institutions have a higher TLDU staff to faculty or student ratio than public institutions, and doctoral institutions have the lowest ratio of any of the four Carnegie institution types. This benchmarking data enables institutions to compare their primary TLDU staffing levels to peer institutions as one indication of commitment to the improvement of teaching.

Background and Purposes of the Study

Faculty development is a field in higher education that focuses on improving student learning through the professional development of faculty. Teaching and learning development units (TLDUs), or teaching and learning centers, are administrative units in an institution of higher education that develop and implement faculty development programs. The first TLDUs were established by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (1962) and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (1972) to provide long-term teaching development support; these units were originally staffed by faculty who had been granted course release time to enable them to support their colleagues.

Since that time, faculty development as a separate organizational unit has become increasingly prevalent in higher education; over the last ten years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of established TLDUs (Reder, 2010). Several research studies and other sources provide data to understand the recent and current growth and scope of faculty development as a field and of the number of TLDUs. A large collection of data on TLDUs was conducted by Sorcinelli, Austin, Eddy, and Beach; their study identified 999 members of the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education (POD Network) and three hundred institutions in the United States as having POD Network members, according to the POD Network 2001 membership list (2006). In February 2011, the POD Network reported having 1700 members from 760 institutions, 90 % of which are colleges and universities (POD Network, 2011; H. Holmgren, personal communication, February 21, 2011). These numbers reflect a 70% increase in the number of individual POD Network members and a 128 % increase in the number of colleges and universities in the United States with members in the POD Network from 2001 to 2011. In the first comprehensive survey of TLDUs in the United States, there were 1,267 TLDUs at 933 unique institutions or about 21 percent of all colleges and universities in the U.S. (Kuhlenschmidt, 2011). This 211 % increase from the 300 institutions with a POD Network membership in 2001 (which may or may not have had established TLDUs), to the 933 unique institutions with identified TLDUs in 2011, further suggests growth in the number of institutions with TLDUs over the last ten years.

Lewis (1996) and Diamond (2002) note that faculty development can encompass (1) faculty development, or encouraging faculty members' personal or professional development or individual teaching skills; (2) instructional development, including course or curriculum design and student learning; and (3) organizational development, including the organizational structure of the institution, as well as strategic improvement efforts at the department, program, college, or university level. Instructional technology and support for online education are increasingly included under the purview of TLDUs' responsibilities as well (Herman, 2012).

With the increasing prevalence and responsibilities of faculty development units in higher education, leaders in these institutions are faced with decisions of staffing and administration of these TLDUs. Staffing decisions not only impact the frequency and variety of faculty professional development programs offered by the TLDU (Herman, 2012), but an institution's allocation of dedicated professional time to a TLDU is often the best indicator-even more than budget size-of an institution's commitment to the improvement of teaching (Reder, 2010). …