Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Faculty Developer as Teacher

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I have so many mixed feelings about my role as a faculty developer. Some of them I wrote about with Lee Skallerup Bessette a few years ago….others I tried to imagine differently with Autumm Caines in an upcoming peer-reviewed piece on infusing equity, agency and connected learning into faculty development…

This blogpost is about two things.

How faculty development makes me a better teacher

As part of my work, I do in-class confidential assessments to give feedback to faculty – these can be peer observations or SGIDs where we talk to students. I also am involved in institutional assessments doing surveys and focus groups with students and faculty and at times even parents.

I learn sooo much from these. I hear students talk about frustration with vague assessment criteria and it resonates with me that my own students will probably say the same (they do).

I did a focus group on BYOD and realized how much of a burden it is to ask students to bring laptops to class (most of my activities can be done with a phone or in pairs).

I hear about a lot of stories from these assessments and also from faculty in workshops and consultations… I learn about a lot of the good and the bad and the nuanced and the complex and I hear it on a regular basis…so it inevitably influencez my teaching. Fills my head with ideas, some obvious and some subtle. And I am grateful for this insight. So even though I enjoy teaching students a lot more than being a faculty developer (probably coz I have more autonomy in my own classes) I can still see how I am the teacher I am because of my fac dev role and I do not wanna lose that perspective.

How faculty as learners are different from undergrads as learners (duh)

This is glaringly obvious it should not need to be stated, and yet Autumm and I focus on it in our paper and how we should focus on heutagogy in faculty development.

One of the things I am facing now is that we are doing a faculty learning community thing. It is mostly going great… for those who attend regularly, you can sense the community developing and the warmth in the sessions. I am not so sure about two things, though

  1. Best way for those who miss a session to make it up. This could be by doing an asynchronous reflection on the topic (if we were content focused) or attending an alternative workshop (if we were process focused). Or giving people a choice
  2. I feel strongly that attending sessions and doing nothing in between (whether interactive discussion or individual reflections that we share) vastly reduces the potential learning in a learning community. Reflecting alone and with others is key to being a good practitioner and especially teacher.

In all of this, I am torn because I barely allow myself to require stuff of my undergrad students.. I really feel uncomfortable requiring something from faculty. So I will make some time to discuss with them what they want to choose to commit to for their learning path to be what they want it to be…knowing that they are likely to benefit more if they put in more thought and effort. The problem with agency is that if you lack knowledge and experience of *what could be* you may never seek anything beyond what you know and you will most likely stunt your own growth. So I think educators who aim to empower others (hate that word empower) and nurture their agency need to also help raise their consciousness about what the world *could be* and not just *what it is*. My usual approach to doing this is to reflect aloud about my own experiences and failures and hope others will share more of theirs. But I also, I guess, want to listen to their personal contexts and understand what kinds of things hinder and motivate them…beyond their academic careers but also their lives. For example, being a mom (with a husband whose job and culture make me an 80-90% single parent) really affects many of my day to day and long term decisions. This has nothing directly to do with my career but everything to do with my career. The header image kind of sums this up. My laptop bag with my kid’s baby doll peeping out. A reminder that I was carrying my kid on my lap while working on my PhD…that she is always somewhere in the background while I work at home, even if she is asleep.

Anyway. This post has helped clear my head a bit. And will change how I plan to handle our faculty community session today.

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