Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Using Instructional Consultation to Support Faculty in Learner-Centered Teaching

Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Using Instructional Consultation to Support Faculty in Learner-Centered Teaching

Article excerpt

Despite some limitations, instructional consultation provides an environment through which faculty can be supported to design and deliver learner-centered instruction. Also known as individual consultation, individual instructional consultation, or simply consultation, instructional consultation is a formative process in which an educational developer works collaboratively with a faculty member to evaluate teaching and make improvements (Brinko, 2012; Finelli et al., 2008; Lenze, 1996). Following 165 faculty members, Piccinin (1999) found overall improvement in teaching performance in faculty members who received consultation services over a period of seven years. Consultation has been found to have benefits for teaching effectiveness for both young and older faculty members (Piccinin & Moore, 2002) and the improvements made during consultation have been found to persist beyond the consultation process (Piccinin, Cristi, & Moore, 1999). Moreover, in a multi-analysis study of the effectiveness of student ratings as a feedback mechanism, Cohen (1980) found that feedback from student ratings coupled with consultation is more effective than feedback alone.

Educational developers have been advocating the use of consultation to improve teaching effectiveness for several decades. For instance, Lewis and Povlacs Lunde (2001) posit that consultation is "the best way to instill lasting commitment to change in faculty members' teaching" (p. iii). Similarly, Brinko (2012) advances the use of consultation as "the most promising way of fundamentally changing post-secondary teaching" (p. vii). The efficacy of consultation lies in providing faculty with "knowledgeable feedback, especially when coupled with workable strategies for change and ongoing monitoring of the effect of such change" (Knapper & Piccinin, 1999, p. 5).

Major and Palmer (2006) argue that past efforts to improve teaching have focused on classroom delivery without equal attention to course design. In fact, Toohey (1999) argues that while bringing the curriculum to life through course delivery is important, "the power of good teacher-student interaction is multiplied many times by good course design" (p. 1). In an era dominated by the pursuit of learner-centered teaching to improve student learning outcomes, Fink (2013) and Sims (2014) posit that the shift to learner-centered teaching requires paying as much attention to course design as to course delivery. Notwithstanding, faculty need support to gain competence as independent designers of learnercentered environments (Entwistle, 2003; Toohey, 1999).

Learner-centered teaching (both course design and delivery) is an approach that uses multiple methods of teaching (Blumberg, 2009b; Weimer, 2013), focuses on the learner and learning (McCombs, 2001), and promotes a culture of collaborative, cooperative and supportive learning (Barr & Tagg, 1995). There is no consensus in the literature on the extent to which learning environments ought to be learner-centered, with many educators taking a pragmatic and intentionally eclectic approach to learner-centered teaching. In the past decade, Weimer's (2002, 2013) work has been influential in the learner-centered teaching movement, synthesizing the vast literature on learner-centered teaching into five dimensions: the role of the teacher, the balance of power, the function of content, the responsibility for learning, and the purpose and process of assessment. Blumberg (2009a) extended Weimer's (2002) work and developed a rubric that identifies components for each of the five dimensions of learner-centered teaching.

Learner-centered environments are complex, requiring competence in areas such as course design, appropriate use of technology, and assessment of student learning outcomes, all of which are competencies beyond the academic's discipline (Ramsden, 2005; Sorcinelli, Austin, Eddy, & Beach, 2006). Educational developers propose the use of coaching (Trevitt, 2003) and scaffolding (Sims & Jones, 2003) to facilitate a paradigm shift to learner-centered teaching. …

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