Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

An Investment in New Tenure-Track Faculty: A Two-Year Development Program

Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

An Investment in New Tenure-Track Faculty: A Two-Year Development Program

Article excerpt

A well-designed professional development program can help first- and second-year faculty thrive in their new academic environment. Faculty developers must consider the length and frequency of such programs and their focus; requirements for participation; the role of mentors; ways to establish collegiality; and opportunities for developing the scholarship of teaching and learning. The Texas A&M UniversityKingsville program currently enjoys a 94% retention rate of new faculty members, many of whom become teacher-scholars. A description of the program provides a framework to foster dialog about the purposes, costs, benefits, and results of investing in extended professional development for new faculty.

In order to flourish in academia, new tenure-track faculty must quickly become familiar with the institution's expectations and resources. Institutional investment in new faculty is a sound venture and equally benefits new faculty members. An extended faculty development program was implemented at our small, regional, state institution which, although classified as a Doctoral/Research University (Carnegie classification), considers a full-time faculty appointment equivalent to a twelve (12) hour teaching load per semester. Coupled with the demand for research, this heavy teaching load poses a significant burden on all faculty members and limits our ability to recruit and retain new faculty.

Both research intensive universities and those whose mission is primarily teaching organize a variety of orientation programs for new faculty members, the vast majority of whom have recently completed their terminal degree, dearly, early-career faculty require different skills from mid-career faculty with prior experience, as noted by Laursen and Rocque (2009), and confusing "newly hired faculty" and "new faculty" has caused at least one faculty development program to encounter difficulties (Renegar et al., 1987). While most programs tend to be brief (Doyle & Marcinkiewicz, 2001), some universities host yearlong orientation programs, some of which are offered online. In some programs, each participating faculty member is paid the equivalent of teaching one credit hour (Welch, 2002), while those enrolling in the Certificate in College Teaching offered by the Colleges of Worcester Consortium pay tuition (Certificate, 2007). Most programs are not mandatory. In fact, mandatory attendance can cause participants to have a negative attitude, as Renegar et al. (1987) warned. However, mandatory two-year programs for inexperienced faculty are standard in many universities in the United Kingdom (Hubball and Burt, 2006). In addition to attending sessions to enhance course design and evaluation, for example, participants in the Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education undertake a small-scale research project on an aspect of their teaching, write a 3,000-4,000 word thesis, and critically reflect on and synthesize the data and conclusions from that thesis at an annual teaching and learning symposium.

Early-career faculty describe themselves as socially and intellectually isolated (Laursen and Rocque, 2009); in fact, as Sorcinelli and Austin (quoted in Menges, 1999) report, new hires identified lack of collegiality as the most surprising and disappointing aspect of their first year experience. The collegiality and support networks that develop through successful faculty development programs can help new faculty adjust to their new environment (Brunei University Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Handbook 2007/2008). Furthermore, supportive social interactions can impact both productivity in scholarship and excellence in teaching (Boice, 1992).

Case Study: An Extended Professional Development Program for New Faculty

The institution's upper administration acknowledged the need for the university to offer a professional development program that went beyond orientation to nurture new faculty and help them succeed. …

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