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A Strategic Approach to Transform Faculty Development for Online Teaching

Peter Rennert-Ariev (Loyola University Maryland, USA)
Natalie Janiszewski (Loyola University Maryland, USA)
Session Information
October 14, 2015 - 3:45pm
Institutional Strategies & Innovations
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Theory/Conceptual Framework
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Oceanic 5
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 4

Details how a conceptually strong framework for faculty development, based on promoting faculty reflective inquiry, informed institutional strategic planning for online education

Extended Abstract

This presentation focuses on one institution's efforts to link strategic planning for online learning with a mission-based and theoretically robust conception of professional development for faculty. This serves as a case study of a theoretically-informed approach to strategic planning that may be instructive for other small mission-based institutions that are developing or scaling up online initiatives and seeking new approaches for faculty professional development for online learning.

The setting is a Jesuit Catholic comprehensive university with a mission to inspire students to learn, lead, and serve in a diverse and changing world. It is committed to the educational and spiritual traditions of the Jesuits, the ideals of liberal education, and the development of the whole person. This approach encourages the nourishment of a community committed to an examined life of intellectual, social, and spiritual discernment and fosters the understanding that service, leadership, and personal fulfillment are intimately connected.

The institution's philosophy of online teaching and learning recognizes that establishing social, cognitive, and teaching presence is essential to supporting deep learning and collaborative engagement, and avoiding the common pitfall of disconnectedness in online contexts. The articulation of a common philosophy of online education has laid a foundation for an integrated and aligned institutional approach to developing strategies, policies, and expectations for all online courses and programs and helps provide guidance for new faculty development programs which is the particular focus of this presentation.

The core institutional initiatives around online education focus on 1. promoting growth in high quality online and blended programs informed by "mission-based" and technologically cutting edge approaches to instructional technology integration and 2. offering faculty development opportunities that enable faculty to develop sophisticated technological and pedagogical decision-making and to design coherent, integrated courses that integrate technology-rich instructional and assessment strategies.

Special attention was given to overcome limitations of "competency-driven" vision professional development for online teaching that do not give full attention to issues of empowerment of faculty that might include promoting their critical reflection, and integrating technology into pedagogical inquiry. Rather, institutional focus intentionally stressed a broader, more intellectual and empowered view of online teaching. A conceptual framework for faculty development was created to ensure the alignment mission and strategic planning. This framework is framed by 4 questions:

- To what extent have we adopted an image of faculty as professionals who are empowered and engaged in intellectual work that requires careful deliberation? (Not as technicians who performs set behaviors)
- To what extent are we promoting faculty critical reflection? (as opposed to reflection based on rules and propositions)
- To what extent are we adopting an image of online teaching that is learner-centered and
context-dependent? (as opposed to providing overly generic and teacher-centered forms of instruction)
- To what extent are we helping faculty integrate online teaching technology, pedagogy, and content? (not artificially separate technology, pedagogy, and content)

This framework was used to guide to development and implementation of several impactful new faculty development programs on online/hybrid teaching and course design. One is a two week workshop on "digital pedagogy and course design" focused on mentoring faculty in converting a course in ways that build capacity toward developing online programs as well as revising a course by more fully integrating web-based approaches using instructional technologies. The focus is on developing a coherent course design and pedagogical approaches that increase communication and collaboration among students, integrate digitally recorded class sessions, and deepen student learning through a variety of "web-based" innovations. The workshop is supported by an informal instructional technology inquiry group that provides a venue to share ideas, raise course design and pedagogical questions, and explore new approaches.

A second approach is a 7-module online course focused on online pedagogy and course design informed by a mission-based approach to online education, prioritizing opportunities for interaction and engagement. The competencies for this course include: Develop strategies to enhance student collaboration and teamwork; Devise guidelines, expectations, goals and deadlines that lead to active, motivated, focused student participation in asynchronous discussions; Recognize and develop discussion facilitation styles that encourage higher-order critical thinking and lead to constructivist learning dialogues in asynchronous discussions. Use strategies to facilitate interactive and productive synchronous class meetings; Devise guidelines, expectations, goals and deadlines that lead to active, motivated, focused student participation in synchronous discussions; Develop strategies for ways to use webvideo and recorded presentations to "flip" the classroom; Develop ways that social media and online resources can enhance student learning and engagement and collaboration Each module contains a selection of readings and online videos, collaborative tools (such as discussion forums and voicethread), and links to educational technology tutorials.

These models serve as examples of the ways that institutional priorities around professional development for online learning can better focus on online faculty as adult learners who continuously transform their meaning of their own professional development through an ongoing process of critical reflection and action. We need to consider faculty teaching online as reflective practitioners who make their own decisions about preferred goals and practices of online teaching and construct a working knowledge of online teaching out of alternative viewpoints and frames of references. The approaches of online faculty preparation and support, therefore, need to transcend the limitations of strictly defined competency-based faculty development programs, which may treat technology as a separate entity to be learned and an isolated role to be performed. What is needed, then, is the creation of "transformative" professional development experiences for faculty who engage in pedagogical problem- solving and discovery about online teaching within their disciplines. Moreover, by incorporating collaborative work groups, community building, and group discussions into professional development programs, and sustaining their continuity, faculty can gain access to opportunities to participate in communities of practice and thus transform their teaching by socially constructing their knowledge and practices.

Lead Presenter

Peter Rennert-Ariev is an associate professor of Curriculum and Instruction and Chair of the Education Specialties Department at Loyola University Maryland where he has worked since earning a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Maryland College of Education in 2002. His scholarship addresses characteristics of teacher education programs, the role of Òperformance-basedÓ assessment in teacher development, and the use of teaching portfolios to promote professional development for higher education faculty. His work has highlighted the role of assessment in promoting student learning, the political context of teacher education reform, and the complex challenges underlying institutional change. Dr. Rennert-Ariev's research has appeared in publications such as Teachers College Record, The Journal of Teacher Education, Teacher Education and Practice, and The Journal of Curriculum Studies and he has presented his work at various educational conferences including the American Educational Research Association, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the National Media Education Conference, and the International Conference on College Teaching and Learning. Dr. Rennert-Ariev has been involved in mentoring college faculty in developing teaching portfolios and his analysis of the role of teaching portfolios in higher education appeared in the 2010 book The Teaching Portfolio, published by Jossey-Bass.