Faculty Development and Student Learning: Assessing the Connections

Faculty Development and Student Learning: Assessing the Connections

Faculty Development and Student Learning: Assessing the Connections

Faculty Development and Student Learning: Assessing the Connections


Colleges and universities across the US have created special initiatives to promote faculty development, but to date there has been little research to determine whether such programs have an impact on students' learning. Faculty Development and Student Learning reports the results of a multi-year study undertaken by faculty at Carleton College and Washington State University to assess how students' learning is affected by faculty members' efforts to become better teachers. Extending recent research in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) to assessment of faculty development and its effectiveness, the authors show that faculty participation in professional development activities positively affects classroom pedagogy, student learning, and the overall culture of teaching and learning in a college or university.


Pathways from Faculty Learning to Student
Learning and Beyond

Mary Taylor Huber

One of the questions many of us are often asked is whether engagement
in the scholarship of teaching and learning leads to improvements
in student learning. How do/would you answer this question? What
would you point to as evidence for this connection on your campus?

Ask a question like this to directors of faculty development programs
of any kind and you will likely find what my colleagues and I found
among leaders of campus initiatives to support the scholarship of
teaching and learning: “puzzlement and frustration over the difficulties
of documentation.” (Hutchings, Huber, and Ciccone 2011, 137)

faculty development and Student Learning: Assessing the Connections provides a model for mapping this treacherous territory, where so many educators fear to tread. the authors, a multidisciplinary team from Carleton College, the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton, and Washington State University (WSU), trace the effects on their two campuses of initiatives that have encouraged faculty to look closely and critically at student learning as a way to improve instruction in writing, critical thinking, and quantitative reasoning. I have been privileged to serve as an advisor to the “Tracer Project” (as it is known) since 2008, joining the authors in conversation as they sought ways to answer hard, puzzling questions about whether well-designed faculty development programs actually change participants’ approaches to teaching, improve the quality of student work produced in those classrooms, and contribute to a more generative and productive culture of teaching and learning on campus.

The challenges of documenting connections between faculty learning and student learning are, famously, legion. It’s one thing to engage faculty in programs that invite classroom inquiry and innovation, as many faculty development programs do. But it’s another thing to show that faculty actually make changes in their teaching as a result of that engagement, that these pedagogical innovations (new goals, activities, assessments, etc.) in turn lead to changes in student learning, and that all of these changes . . .

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