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Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Intrinsic Motivation vs Affective Labor: Faculty Development

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 1 second

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I have been thinking about this for a long long time.

Many of us who consider ourselves critical pedagogues are against the use of grades as a means to motivate students. We would rather work on intrinsic motivation than extrinsic motivators that are ad-hoc and not directly related to the learning we value, and I personally feel that how we design our assessments can give our students impressions on what we value as educators. So it matters how we choose to capture and keep their interest, and it matters if we do so a priori or if we take the time to get to know them as individuals and see what will engage their passions most deeply. That isn’t to say it’s simple or straightforward to do this, but it’s an ideal I strive towards.

Now moving onto faculty development – and Lee Skallerup Bessette and I have written about critical approaches to #FacDev) how do we negotiate that intrinsic/extrinsic motivation thing when there are also issues of affective labor?

What I mean is, my first reaction to providing external incentives to faculty development is often to say, “faculty should come if they are personally motivated to do so; otherwise they won’t benefit”. Not from workshops, formative assessments, or consultations. They should be able to judge what kind of professional development they need and how best to receive it (possibly with the help of a faculty developer they trust).

But I forget about adjuncts and faculty who have different demands on their time. And institutions that value research above teaching.

The fulltime faculty member who is already passionate about teaching will find ways to develop their teaching regardless. We should not worry about them, except in the affective labor aspect. Those faculty who put in the time to mentor students outside class time and revise their teaching. Rewarding them for it by making it something measurable is insulting. Requiring others to do the same as them is not particularly helpful because things like mentoring students don’t come about because they’re required. They come from within. And they won’t probably be done well if they aren’t self-motivated to a great extent.

But still – those who do spend time on teaching and on students are taking time away from their families at least, and possibly time away from research which could have counted more towards their tenure and promotion. They are doing affective labor for which they are intrinsically rewarded whereas others do different kinds of labor that the institution values more clearly.

So… Should faculty be required or paid to attend workshops? I keep thinking no. What good is it to bring someone who isn’t interested? What about adjuncts, who would have to give up time elsewhere where they would be making more money to just help pay the bills? How do we factor this in?

Is there possibly a system by which we reward positively everything a faculty member does that relates to their professional development but allow them to choose whether it will be something related to teaching or research? Could institutions possibly find qualitative ways of assessing faculty labor, ones that are not about counting publications and impact factors and student ratings and grants received and number of committees served on?

What about faculty who don’t even realize they’re not teaching well? Would making some fac dev obligatory possibly open their eyes once they try it? That’s putting a lot of weight on workshops – that we should model good pedagogy in our workshops is a no-brainer and yet not all fac dev workshops are like that. Faculty developers differ in their approaches to workshops just like teachers differ in their approaches to teaching. Put both together and it means that the faculty developers approach/philosophy may not transfer well to teachers participating in the workshop – as learners or as teachers, and we haven’t even gotten into the actual content of the workshop which may or may not be relevant to participants.

I always said you never know how good a MOOC is gonna be until you actually try it. This is pretty true of many educational experiences unless you have had similar or with like the same facilitator(s) or in a similar context.

So…making fac dev required, without e.g. freeing up faculty time from something else? That makes no sense for fulltimers (think mom of young kids where every additional hour at work has a cost to her family); or adjuncts (where every additional hour could be spent on making ends meet in some other way).

So that’s where I am now. Dilemma. I want faculty to come to fac dev coz they are intrinsically motivated but it’s not fair to keep treating good teaching and passion for developing one’s teaching as undervalued affective labor.

Any ideas?

5 Comments

  1. What a great post, Maha! I am commenting because I am very curious what others will say. I worked for a couple of years before my current job doing faculty development full time — not with adjuncts / part-timers, but with full-time faculty at my school… but it’s a RESEARCH university; teaching is a distinct second, and that hierarchy is a big obstacle to overcome. Anyway, I quit that job in frustration (I felt like I was accomplishing nothing), and that’s when I began teaching online, also a full-time job. And with students, all the strategies and efforts that I favor worked GREAT: making choices, making connections, building long-term projects, freedom to experiment, total creativity, etc. — it’s all about, somehow or other, tapping into the self-motivation that is there, and finding a way, no matter how weird, to connect that personal motivation to the overall goals of the class; since I teach writing, the class is flexible enough to accommodate pretty much any kind of experiment. Yet even though “teaching teaching” is as big and flexible an endeavor as “teaching writing,” I could not find a way to make faculty development efforts work, even when the faculty had all the freedom in the world to define the direction of the learning, even more freedom than students in my class have. So, it’s now over 10 years since I left my old job, and faculty development is still completely languishing at my school. I am really curious what others will say about this!

    • (i also sometimes comment to get notified of other commenters!)
      That’s an important thing you mention – the distinction between why certain strategies work w students but not as much w faculty. Is it because students are more malleable? More open to learning? Have dedicated their lives to learning at this point (tho i guess non-traditional students are different).
      I assume anyone who does a PhD or teaches at University is dedicated to lifelong learning. It may just be one of learning thru research not teaching? I don’t know. Does anyone truly not care if their students don’t understand or enjoy their class? It baffles me.
      As a facdev it bothers me if one student in a class or one faculty member in a workshop isn’t engaged

  2. One of my pet peeves is when an administrator says that allowing adjuncts to attending faculty development is a “benefit”. I always just assumed that if the center for teaching and learning is offering a free faculty workshop that adjuncts were naturally included. But I still take issue with adjuncts not being paid to attend faculty development. I take even greater issue when it is “mandatory training” that I’m required to attend but am not compensated for. One of the schools I teach at has a great union that fights for part-time faculty (it is a part-time faculty union). They managed to get us a “bonus” for completing mandatory training. It wasn’t a lot, but at least it was some form of compensation for the time required to do training that was “out of scope” for our contract. Unfortunately what I’m seeing happen is that administrators are adding the faculty development or mandatory training or staff meetings into the contract as a requirement. They are not adding the 2-3 hours per semester to the dollar value of the contract, they are just tagging it onto what they require adjuncts to do. An no matter how you put it, faculty development that you offer to your full time faculty is not a “benefit” for adjuncts/contingent faculty – it is a right.

    • Agree. At my institution adjuncts are welcome to attend fac dev stuff. No problem. But i agree that making it mandatory uncompensated is a problem.
      I do like that you called it a “right”. They have a right to free prof dev if they CHOOSE and they have a right that required hours additional to their contract be compensated

    • It always floors me when i publish sthg like this expecting it not to matter to my non-local PLN and yet… U still read and responded. Thanks to all who did

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