Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Promoting Critical Reflection: An Evaluation of the Longer-Term Impact of a Substantial Faculty Development Program

Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Promoting Critical Reflection: An Evaluation of the Longer-Term Impact of a Substantial Faculty Development Program

Article excerpt

CRITICAL REFLECTION on teaching-and the process of being a reflective educational professional-has long been touted as a virtue in scholarly and philosophical literature on teaching and learning. Over a century ago, Dewey put forth several key dimensions of what such reflection should entail, later distilled by Rodgers (2002) into four criteria, establishing that reflection is (1) a meaning-making process in which a learner makes sense of one experience by making connections and relationships to other experiences and ideas; (2) a "systematic, rigorous, disciplined way of thinking" that is inquiry (and evidence)-based; (3) a communal-based process that occurs in dialogue with others; that (4) requires "attitudes that value the personal and intellectual growth of oneself and of others" (p. 845).

Later, influenced by such thinkers as Freire (1972), Mezirow (2006), and Brookfield (2009), reflection on teaching took on a more critical, transformative dimension, with the purposeful examination of the power structures that underlie the student-teaching relationship, and the exploration of teaching as an act of transformation. These ideas came to intertwine with Schön's (1983) notion of the 'reflective practitioner,' which stressed the idea of reflecting-in-action, as well as Light, Cox, and Calkins (2009) 'reflective professional,' which focuses on reflecting on one's multiple identities within a professional environment as one navigates change and uncertainty from all professional directions.

However, for many faculty, finding such space and time to engage in critical reflection on teaching has often proved difficult to achieve in practice. Almost 15 years ago, Boice (1992) noted that many faculty focused on the demands of their research and tenure/promotion find that they have little time to reflect on their teaching or its relation to student learning. This conundrum is still a challenge today, particularly with other pressing expectations for faculty related to service and additional professional obligations (Austin & Sorcinelli, 2013). As research on the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) has revealed, faculty may have little experience or training with thinking critically and reflectively on their teaching (Adams, 2009) and even less experience engaging with pedagogical literature that could help frame their inquiries (Richlin & Cox, 2004). As in any field, faculty must learn to ask the right questions of themselves and their students to gain insight into their teaching and assess student learning (Ash & Clayton, 2009).

In this case study, we focus on the impact of a faculty development program for early career faculty that stresses ongoing critical reflection of learning and teaching in higher education. Building on earlier extended evaluations of the program in which we analyzed faculty conceptions of learning and teaching (Light & Calkins, 2008); approaches to teaching (Light, Calkins, Luna, & Drane, 2009), as well as the role of reflection in faculty development (Calkins & Seidler, 2011), we examined the extent to which of the 27 faculty-former program participants-continued to critically reflect on their teaching and their students' learning even after they completed the program.

Program Description

For fifteen years, the Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching has run an interdisciplinary year-long faculty development program for early career faculty at a mid-size private research intensive university located in the Midwest United States. The program is designed to (1) foster critical inquiry and professional reflection on teaching (Light, et al., 2009), (2) emphasize learning-focused conceptions and approaches to teaching (Prosser & Trigwell, 1999), (3) focus on facilitating conceptual understanding and change in students (Entwistle, 2005); (4) make inquiry public and open to peer critique (Richlin & Cox, 2004); and (5) reflect on relevant different teaching and learning issues in higher education. …

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