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The Changing Role of Faculty: Embedding Student Success Into Faculty Development and Teaching

Alli Woods, Associate Vice Provo (UMUC, USA)
Ravi Mittal (UMUC, USA)
Margo Coleman-Seiffert (UMUC, USA)
Session Information
October 15, 2015 - 10:15am
Faculty and Professional Development & Support
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Europe 3
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 6

Join us to learn about University of Maryland University College's evolving faculty role and how our lessons learned could be applicable at your own institution!

Extended Abstract

Many universities are seeking to improve the learning outcomes and professional-relevancy of their degree programs. The rise of competency-based educational models is one visible result. As the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) considered its evolving learning model in a competency framework, it became clear that to best serve our students, our approach had to capitalize on our faculty's talents, strengths, knowledges, and experiences.

Our Enhanced Learning Model (ELM) identifies the key competencies in each program and requires students to demonstrate their mastery of that learning. Learning demonstrations are performance-focused activities which communicate to the student that knowledge is best acquired and retained by "doing." Program competencies are formulated with the assumption that they are directly relevant to career and workplace skills. Competencies are mapped to one or more learning demonstrations that constitute the building blocks of courses for the program. In that sense, a learning demonstration serves a dual purpose of being a learning experience for the student and a means of evaluating academic progress for the instructor. The objective is to make the learning demonstration real and relatable: in other words to be a script for real-life experience. In addition, each program will intentionally frame and assess the hallmark competencies of written communication, information literacy, and critical thinking. Programs may also assess any of the other hallmarks as is appropriate to that program.

Within this model, faculty are a crucial resource for students as they work through learning resources and prepare to complete each learning demonstration; faculty will also provide detailed feedback on student work, often reviewing multiple submissions of the deliverables in each learning demonstration, to ensure the student achieves mastery of program competencies. Faculty will also communicate with their students more often and may utilize various technologies to do so.

One of the key implications is that faculty members will become much more program-focused than course-focused, meaning that helping students to connect knowledge and apply practice across their program and not just within the confines of a specific course will be critical to the faculty-student relationship. Faculty members must be able to guide students across these competencies, helping students synthesize this knowledge into applied behavior, and demonstrate their ability to create the very type of work product that they will have to create in their profession. A student who cannot master this work cannot become a successful professional.

For example, students studying environmental management will have to complete an environmental impact statement (EIS). The EIS is a very specific type of document, one required by state and federal regulatory bodies whenever a project might have a significant impact to environmental quality. An EIS is used as a decision-making tool it establishes a problem, proposes an action, considers alternative actions, applies multiple cost: benefit ratios (financial, environmental, etc.) and thus demonstrates the mastery of many competencies: research, critical thinking, calculating cost: benefit ratios, measuring environmental impact, etc. Faculty members must be able to guide students across these competencies, helping students synthesize this knowledge into applied behavior, and demonstrate their ability to create the very type of work product (in this case, the EIS) that they will have to create in their profession. A student who cannot master writing an EIS cannot become a successful environmental management professional.

The new approach that students must achieve mastery prior to moving on will also require faculty to mentor and guide students along that path until they demonstrate this mastery. While allowing students to practice and repeat until they achieve mastery has always been an educational best practice (and is the dominant paradigm in fields such as composition & rhetoric), higher education has remained too often the realm of high-stakes, one-shot assessment.

We are committed to ongoing tailoring and improvement of our recruiting, training and support models to ensure that faculty members have the expertise to support students in achieving their programmatic competencies.

This presentation will focus on the process being used to develop the faculty role at the University of Maryland University College. The goals for the presentation are to:

Present information on the similarities, differences, and challenges in the evolving faculty role.

Describe the faculty training and support models being designed and implemented to assist faculty in their new roles.

Share lessons learned from the process of developing a new learning model, with particular emphasis on the role of faculty, faculty training and support.

Highlight the UMUC experience gleaned from the ELM launch, specifically feedback from faculty focus groups.

Throughout the presentation, audience members will be encouraged to ask questions. In addition, audience members will be encouraged to share ways that the faculty role may be evolving at their institutions. The presenters will also lead the group in an exercise that highlights the evolving role of faculty.

Lead Presenter

Alli currently serves as the Vice Provost of Faculty Development at the University of Maryland University of College; prior to this, she was the Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Kaplan University.