A Faculty Development Workshop program was launched as part of our Comprehensive Student Success Program in the Department of Biology and Biochemistry. The goal of the workshops was to begin conversations that would lead to changes in teaching practice away from the “sage on the stage” model towards an environment where students would be engaged in their own learn.
In the first two years of the program, a book study model was used. We invited anyone in the department that wanted to participate. The participants received a copy of the book “The Handbook of College Science Teaching” from NSTA press. The book was chosen because it had short chapters that covered a broad range of subjects pertinent to good teaching. In the second year of the program, we used the book the “College Science Teachers Guide to Assessment” also by NSTA press.
In Fall 2014, the Faculty Development Workshop Program was expanded to include all departments in the College of Natural Science and Math and the College of Engineering. All faculty, instructional, tenure-track, and research, get the e-mail announcements. Postdocs and graduate students also are invited. With the expansion of the program, book studies became cost-prohibitive so we have moved to a system of selected topics using guest speakers from our own faculty with an occasional outside guest speaker. When bringing in outside speakers, we invite the guest to give two talks: one on their scientific research and one on teaching and pedagogy. The dual talk platform opens up more discussions about teaching with faculty that attend research seminars but do not usually participate in teaching seminars.
The biggest benefit to the Faculty Development Workshop series that it creates conversation. Faculty began to talk more to each other about teaching and began comparing notes. The series generates dialogue and that is perhaps the single biggest driver of change in teaching practices in the department. Faculty that do not attend the sessions themselves often find themselves in conversations with people who did attend and were asking questions.