Friday, February 24, 2017

An Open Letter to Faculty Who Do Not Participate in PD

     We are finishing up our carefully-crafted, collaborative, and offered-with-stipend Winter Quarter Professional Development options at my institution. Our theme for this year, "Intentional Teaching" has a focus on building a shared teaching vocabulary for faculty around Reading Apprenticeship (RA) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL), two teaching approaches that are making a difference in helping our students succeed. In response to feedback from faculty, we have organized these to best fit everyone's hopes, needs and schedule:

  • They are offered online, so that both evening and daytime instructors can participate, on their own time. 
  • They are for BOTH full time and adjunct instructors; no one is excluded. 
  • But wait! Faculty like to see each other in person too, so a quarterly, free, "Connect with Faculty" lunch is provided, on a non-teaching day, for all participants. 
  • They offer a small stipend for participation; last year with the first time this was made possible. 
  • They have been planned, based on feedback, as 6-week workshops, offered mid-quarter so that faculty can concentrate on getting their classes going and wrapping up at the beginning and end of each quarter. 
  • Faculty have the opportunity to both suggest topics and lead a workshop, for an extra stipend.
  • They are "learn today use tomorrow" workshops that tie directly to teaching.
  • They have flexible weekly deadlines for busy faculty.
     I am thrilled with our participation; we have had about 40 faculty each quarter take part in the workshops.  Each quarter, new faculty give it a try and become "hooked."  But as the coordinator, I am still distressed at the number of faculty who do not participate at all; some are newer faculty who feel overwhelmed and don't know how much these would help; some are old-timers who have a set policy among buddies to Not Let Them Make Me Do Anything Not In My Contract, and some are (surprising, in my mind) tenure-track faculty. Since they don't participate, they don't know what they are missing. The workshops offer:

  • A chance to better your student engagement
  • A chance to get to know faculty you don't normally see or have time to talk to
  • A chance to share your own ideas and get some great ones from others
  • A chance to experience our learning system as a student, so you can better understand the student experience
  • A chance to get a stipend; recognition from the college for your efforts.

     According to surveys and conversations, the #1 reason non-participants cite is that they are too busy. But while they are too busy, the world of teaching and learning are changing.  While they are too busy, participants are gaining teaching expertise that they have never even heard of.  While they are too busy, participants are finding ways to better engage our students. While they are too busy, participants are discovering that this actually helps reduce the workload of their busy schedules.While they are too busy, data shows that participants are helping their students succeed at a higher rate than the non-participants. Higher. Retention. Rates. 

     Well-crafted PD - the kind I am talking about here - is meaningful, enjoyable, and fun.  If you have already decided you are too busy, you should think again. It is easy to think that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence; that other institutions offer get-rich-quick PD and you are stuck in a demanding job that just keeps demanding more from you, and you don't have the time. But the grass is watered and green right in your own backyard, if you step out and take a stroll.