Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Assessing a Faculty Development Program for the Adoption of Brain-Based Learning Strategies

Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Assessing a Faculty Development Program for the Adoption of Brain-Based Learning Strategies

Article excerpt

Faculty development programs (FDPs) are valuable avenues to support and educate university instructors (e.g., Boice, 1992; Eggins & MacDonald, 2003; McKee et al., 2013; Gillespie & Robertson, 2010). But it is also important to measure the effectiveness of such FDPs on instructor improvement, student learning, and impact on the organization. Strategically planned assessment of such programs helps reveal the "return on investment" and can help enrich future programming efforts. The objective of this project was to comprehensively assess the impact of a 20-month series of faculty development programming aimed to foster institution-wide adoption of brain-based learning strategies at our land-grant university.

Many colleges and universities provide centers devoted to helping educators be better, more effective teachers (Hutchings, Huber & Ciccone, 2011). Kansas State University was a forerunner in providing information, presentations and annual teaching workshops (Hoyt & Howard, 1978). The importance of professional development for university faculty has been well-argued (Gibbs, 1995; Griffith, 1996; Sorcinelli et al., 2006). Research has shown that student success is correlated to what faculty members do to facilitate their own growth and development (Arum & Roksa, 2011), and the benefits of FDPs can be broad reaching, including student satisfaction and retention that results from positive interaction with student-focused faculty (Arum & Roksa, 2011).

Beaty (1998) states that professional development consists of 1) development of professional knowledge; 2) developing skill and technique; and 3) developing attitudes and understanding underpinning teaching practice. These professional practices cannot be gained without effort, and a day or two of workshops on teaching methods will not provide the necessary support for such assimilation of professional behavior (Beaty, 1998). Baiocco & DeWaters (1998) and Weimer (1990) claimed that the general consensus among faculty development researchers is that traditional development programs do not result in permanent change. As such, FDPs integrated over many events and longer periods of time are more commonly being offered (e.g., Light et al., 2009).

Critical to these faculty development programs is assessment of their effectiveness to improve teaching and impact positive change (Light et al., 2009; Plank & Kalish, 2010). To substantiate the influence of FDPs, measuring, tracking and reporting the results can accomplish several goals: determine faculty satisfaction with a program; discover the application of what was learned and influence on student learning; inform planning for future events, and ultimately, evaluate wide-ranging institutional impact (Plant & Kalish, 2010; Fink, 2012). Rather than simply measuring participant attendance and number of program activities, outcomebased assessment focuses on changes or benefits during and after an activity or events (Chen et al., 2013). Assessment of FDPs should allow for evaluation of whether participation leads to changes in teaching that will result in improved learning.

Why Brain-based Learning? In the past twenty years, brain-learning research has advanced at a rapid pace because new imaging technologies have allowed researchers to observe what is happening in the brain when it learns and performs tasks (Restak, 2001). As a result, the integration of mind, brain and education (MBE) research is contributing to the understanding of learning and teaching in new ways that are helpful to educators as they construct and teach their courses. While several researchers such as William Greenough, Marian Diamond and Michael Posner laid the groundwork in the 1960s and 1970s for interest in how brain functioning impacted learning, the publications Brain Research and Learning (National Educational Association, 1978), and Education and the Brain (Chall & Mirsky, 1978) began the popularization of how neuroscience research applied to learning (Tokuhama-Espinosa, 2011). …

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