Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Faculty Development?

I purposefully didn't take my laptop to the second day of the faculty development thing last week because I knew I'd be rude, and I try not to be.

We spent the first hour "going over" the new version of the textbook.

First, the text book is mostly reprints of stuff by other authors.  And the reprints are only chosen from stuff the publishing company already owns the rights to.  And if you were to guess the publisher most likely to piss off humanities types, you'll know the publisher.  (Probably not the same publisher that pisses off sciency types.)  The reprinted stuff is at least acknowledged this time.  (Yeah, in the previous edition, the text didn't make it clear what was reprinted, or who'd written what.  Not great modeling for student writing.)

The reprinted stuff isn't great reading, either.

Color me unimpressed.

And the "going over" was basically a person flipping through and saying "well, there's this now" and "this isn't something we were happy with," and so on.  News flash: if you aren't happy with it, and it's being foisted on you by this publisher, why are you working with this publisher again?

There was one really useful part of the faculty development day.  They gave us an hour and a half to work on our syllabus or whatever.  So I mapped out the first 8 weeks of my course calendar for the course.  Half the semester done!


I have to ask, what faculty development stuff have folks actually found useful?

New software stuffs?
Teaching stuffs?

What do faculty feel like we need help with, and how can our schools provide that help well?


  1. Our Title IX training was actually useful this year -- there were real changed, mostly in how we should treat pregnant students, and the guy who walked us through them, was very good.

    But that WAS IT. The rest of the day, I worked on my syllabus and reading list, very covertly.

    1. I'd be very interested to know what you learned about how we should treat pregnant students!

    2. Well, basically that pregnancy is now covered under Title IX. So if a student is pregnant and her doctor says she can't come to class -- if she has a legitimate reason for missing class -- we're required to allow her to miss class (these are excused absences, IOW) and to allow her to make up any missed work. She has also has to be allowed to enter any program at the same point she left it -- this is important for our nursing program, for instance, which I believe used to drop such students.

      I know at least one student was badly treated by an instructor here a few semesters ago. She had a high-risk pregnancy and had to miss several classes as a result. Though she contacted all her professors and let them know why, and though most of us worked with her, one professor would not -- that professor just failed her for missing class.

    3. Thanks, Delagar, that sounds like common sense (as you and several colleagues demonstrate by having worked things out with your student), but (as also demonstrated by your student's experience), sometimes we need actual legal protection because common sense isn't always all that common.

  2. *changes, not changed. TYPOS.

  3. I went to a good workshop when we changed from blackboard to canvas--- a half-hour presentation on basic differences and key features of canvas, and then time in a computer lab to work on your courses with people right there to help.

  4. I'm not certain the link will work, but this picture that's making the rounds lately really sums up my reaction to the useless meeting element of the workshop. If all you're doing is going over the changes in a book, you can do that without dragging people through a show and tell, no?


  5. The link works, Janice. Sounds like our meetings with our current chair.

    1. Yup! Although, to be fair to our current chair, which I try even when I don't want to (being a grown up is a pain, right?), about half my colleagues will not read even the best written of emails, or will lose it, or will find a way to misunderstand it. And of that half, about half will attend the lengthy meeting and at least HEAR the message, even if it doesn't sink in.

      So it's like one of those maths word puzzles: if you know that 50% of emails are unread, 75% of people attend meetings, 85% of email readers also attend meetings, 90% of email readers are annoyed by meetings that can be replaced by emails, 15% of non email readers are annoyed by getting the emails anyway, 10% of your people will be annoyed whatever you do, and you want to maximise message transmission and minimise annoyance, do you call a meeting or send an email?

  6. I went to a good workshop on setting up your online, library-linked reading lists (new system, with automatic ordering in place) where there was a lot of help, a short talk about the university context (we all have to do this, it has Been Decreed) and about some short cuts the library team had already learnt, and most of the session was spent working on one's actual module lists - I definitely learnt tricks that saved me time.

    Otherwise, the best thing about faculty development is the opportunity to talk to other reflective-teacher faculty - so I went to a session on assessment of group work which told me nothing new at considerable length, but the tea break was excellent because I had a really useful conversation with colleagues from History, English and Maths, in which we discussed strategies for overcoming student resistence to group work and for helping groups work effectively together. Even though there were NO BISCUITS AT ALL (the 'perceived importance' of meetings is definitely measurable at our place through snack quality. Fresh, oven-warm pastries, fresh filter coffee, wide choice of cold drinks = something Senior Management consider vital, such as a schmoose session with a rich person. Baked-on-campus cookies, non-instant caffeinated coffee (but in a thermos), juice OR water, for an event attended by a Dean or higher, or concerned with verbal branding or new finance regulations. The kind of biscuits that come in an assortment tin, on a plate, instant coffee sachets and hot water in a thermos, tap water in a jug: training events that have to be completed for legal reasons, cross-departmental activities. Cheap biscuits in tiny plastic portion control packs, instant coffee sachets and hot water in a thermos, tap water in a jug: meeting about teaching or research which is NOT directly about income generation, meeting at departmental level. No snacks: meeting even the organisers don't care about much, even though they made people sign up "for catering purposes". Assortment of fancy cakes, good coffee, no decaffeinated or cold drink options: meeting called by our current Head of Department who booked the catering and who has just sent a cross email around about how badly we overspent our incidentals account as a department. Well, we LIKE the cakes, but you do realise they get charged to incidentals, not just provided by the cake fairy?

  7. Outside speakers. That's the only professional development workshop worth going to where I'm at.