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(Part of Achieving the Dream's Cutting Edge Series) Common Obstacles to EngagementFaculty Challenges • Heavy workloads: Administrative duties demand a large share of faculty time (especially among full-time faculty), and the requirements of new promising practices are often labor-intensive. Busy faculty might tend to think of new initiatives as “add-ons” to those duties, and as unwanted distractions, instead of as opportunities to improve practices. Heavy workloads also make it more difficult to solicit faculty participation in professional development activities. • Initiative overload undermines engagement: Adjunct and full-time faculty are more likely to engage with reform that they think is operationally feasible and that has long-term commitment from leadership. Because the presentation of new “best practices” is so common an experience, faculty may hesitate to invest their time in an initiative that feels like a “flavor of the month.” • Lack of intellectual connection and “goal congruence”: Adjunct and full-time faculty may not readily see the connection between a new initiative and their personal/professional goals and commitments. Researchers observe that many of the best-engaged faculty have highly personal motivations for engagement, while many successful engagement efforts have found ways to help faculty relate new practices to their own values and beliefs. • Resistance to mandates from above: Adjunct and full-time faculty often mistrust initiatives that they see as completely “top-down” efforts; this gives an impression that central leadership is insensitive or indifferent to the opinions of faculty and/or the needs of the school at “ground level.” Top-down efforts are also especially vulnerable to being viewed as faddish or fleeting, and therefore unworthy of support. • External, rather than internal focus: Adjunct and full-time faculty are often, and increasingly, overwhelmed by a high volume of underprepared students or students who face a multitude of pressures, and therefore tend to naturally look to the failings of the K-12 system or other external challenges as the source of the problems and solutions. Refocusing faculty on institutional change can be a challenge. • Lack of adjunct faculty integration: Many colleges have yet to develop effective infrastructure and practices for communicating with adjunct faculty and integrating them into important institutional efforts. Institutional Challenges • Compensation, tenure and promotion policies encourage old values over new ones among both adjunct and full-time faculty: In some cases, adoption of new practices is hindered by existing institutional reward structures. These are especially discouraging to those faculty who are less established and more sensitive to concerns about professional status. • An intervention’s “deliverables” may not be the kind in which adjunct and full-time faculty are most interested: For example, the student data collected and produced through ATD might not include all of the students they teach or might not directly address the leading concerns of faculty (for example, student opinions of their past courses, instead of just student performance). • Faculty autonomy and governance cuts two ways: A strongly autonomous faculty (or faculty with great influence in school governance) might be able to minimize “structural” constraints on faculty engagement, such as unfavorable hiring and promotion practices. However, a faculty culture that encourages autonomy might also insulate teachers from pressures—whether from administrators, students or peers—to adopt new practices or take on new responsibilities. • Leadership turnover/instability: Frequent turnover in leadership threatens the stability of any initiative or practice that is not fully institutionalized. Turnover also creates uncertainty about the stability and level of support that an initiative will receive. • Silos undermine engagement: Aside from impeding communication and collaboration among faculty in general, the presence of silos between departments, between types of faculty and between staff and faculty undermines efforts to engage faculty as reliable partners in institutional change efforts.
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