Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Affective Aspects of Faculty Development

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I’ve been thinking recently based on some feedback I got on our new blended learning workshop series, as well as the ELI workshop on supporting excellence (faculty development) in online instruction that the affective aspect of faculty development is so important. Ok, I admit to there being a strong bias here in that I generally find affective dimensions of any learning experience to be very important, so i probably put more weight on feedback that highlights it.

So for example, I like that someone gave feedback on how they liked the way the first workshop created a friendly atmosphere. I put a lot of weight on the informal interaction and eating and laughing together that can happen in a first meeting. On another note, I also put a lot of weight on faculty’s attitudes towards learning about blended learning: so in the survey of expectations and needs, I found it very positive that although many of the tools were unfamiliar to the faculty, most of them were willing to consider using new tools, even ones like facebook that many people are ambivalent to consider. I’m not necessarily going to focus on social media for this introductory extended workshop, but if someone’s interested we can work on it during one-on-one consultations.

In the last session of the ELI workshop, one of the issues that came up that aligned with my thoughts over the past few years is this: sometimes faculty feel like instructional designers or those who support them don’t understand the pressures they are under; similarly, instructional designers don’t always understand why faculty resist certain suggestions or recommendations. I’m only talking about my own personal experience and myself. I (a much younger, more naive, less wise version of me) used to sometimes look at faculty and wonder why they were resistant to something like learning outcomes. I had a deficit mindset: they were lazy, they didn’t realize the value of it, they were reluctant to change, they were being defiant. I was so so so wrong. From what I learned while doing my PhD about curriculum theory and reflecting it onto the way I teach myself, I came to understand and embody that resistance to writing out predefined, measurable learning outcomes. And that’s only one thing I understand because I now agree with it. It opened up my eyes to the possibility that as a faculty developer, my perspective might be so different (even if I teach, too) than the next faculty member, so I need to make room for this lack of understanding, a space for their freedom to meet my support and become an enriching learning experience for them, rather than me training them to fit into a mould of some arbitrary best practice.

Another thing that came up in the ELI workshop was the importance of flexibility and meeting faculty where they are. Smaller chunks of manageable faculty development seemed a better choice than large ones. When there is a need for more sustained faculty development eg to transition to online learning, participants and presenters suggested two useful nuggets:
A. Be flexible. Offer self-paced or online interactive alternatives for people who must miss f2f sessions due to eg travel or sickness (duh. Something we all agree on over here but can’t always enforce as policy; must discuss this more here)
B. baby steps. Don’t require people to redesign an entire course at first. Let them try on activity/assessment, then one module, then gradually move up to a full course. Again, something we usually talk about but sometimes for larger redesign courses, we want faculty to jump head first.

I gotta go…

2 Comments

  1. Your article is insightful and very helpful, Maha. I’m thinking about your insights in relation to my role as teacher librarian trying to encourage teachers to take some risks and do things differently. I like this in particular – that you say you have to leave ‘a space for their freedom to meet my support’. It’s a very respectful attitude. I don’t think there’s any other successful way of doing it.

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