Focus on the Learners: Designing Effective Faculty Professional Development Programs

Concurrent Session 1
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Teaching and Learning Centers must remain learner-centered in their approach to supporting varied faculty needs and interest.  This session will compare and contrast an array of approaches to faculty development including online/hybrid programs, online course development opportunities, faculty learning communities, onboarding for new faculty, and support for inclusive teaching excellence. 


DANA MUNK Inclusive Excellence Faculty Fellow, Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center Grand Valley State University Inclusive classrooms and course design Licensed Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) administrator Faculty Social Identity Early and mid-career faculty mentoring Dana continues her work as an Inclusive Excellence Faculty Fellow, a position developed in collaboration with the Division of Inclusion and Equity. Dana facilitates an Inclusive Excellence Teaching Institute, administers Implicit Bias in the Classroom workshops for faculty, mentors new faculty, and facilitates faculty learning communities based on inclusive topics.
Christine Rener serves as Vice Provost for Instructional Development and Innovation and Director of the Robert and Mary Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. In her role, Dr. Rener leads teaching and learning initiatives across the university and oversees a staff that provides professional development opportunities for all faculty. She consults with faculty, leads workshops, organizes conferences, and oversees an extensive grant and teaching award program. Current initiatives out of her Center include comprehensive support for part-time faculty, a suite of Faculty Learning Communities, and dissemination of first-year pedagogy best practices. Dr. Rener holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry, molecular biology, and cell biology from Northwestern University and is an active member of the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network in Higher Education.

Extended Abstract

Learner-centered teaching allows students to take more responsibility for learning tasks in the classroom and encourages them to learn more from and with each other (Weimar, 2002). This same principle applies to educational development programs where faculty are the students and faculty developers assume the role of determining needs and interests, designing the programs, and providing guidance and feedback. As it can be challenging to meet the dynamic needs and interests of faculty at all stages of the career continuum, Teaching and Learning Centers must avoid a “one size fits all” approach to educational development programs. For example, emerging pressure to design and offer online courses requires seasoned faculty to continuously advance their technological skills. This can pose a challenge to faculty who prefer to both teach and learn via face-to-face methods. In addition, new faculty carry pressure to balance teaching, scholarship and service which calls for diverse and multiple mentoring and learning opportunities. Finally, non-tenure track and part-time faculty, who assume responsibility for major teaching loads, have unique orientation and mentoring needs in addition to a multitude of teaching development opportunities (Sorcinelli et al, 2006).

In response to the dynamic and changing role of faculty, this session will provide an overview of online, hybrid, and face-to-face programs offered through our Faculty Teaching and Learning Center to support faculty at all levels. Using Web links, slide presentation, and written handouts, presenters will share information on the following:

  • Online and Face-to-Face Faculty Orientation Initiatives
  • Online, Face-to-Face, and Mentoring Programs for New Faculty
  • Online and Hybrid Teaching Development Initiatives
  • Collaborative programs with academic departments and support offices across campus
  • An exemplar program planning decision matrix
  • Sample program evaluation and feedback mechanisms, including review of our data and subsequent planning corrections  


We have designed and refreshed our faculty professional development program to adapt to the needs of our faculty learners and will share the overview of our comprehensive offerings as well as describe some of the evidence-based choices that were made along the way.

Interactive group activities will include:

  • A matching exercise for participant pairs to introduce the idea of aligning faculty development program format with desired outcomes
  • Interactive exercise demonstrating the benefits and challenges of instructor-focused and learner-focused educational development programs
  • Brief slide presentation with embedded feedback questions and open-ended discussion prompts
  • Table discussion of sample program planning and evaluation decision matrices  


Participants in this session will leave with a greater understanding of learner-focused strategies to creating a faculty professional development program. In the process of learning about our approach to planning a suite of educational development offerings, participants will have the opportunity to analyze and adapt tools for making programmatic decisions.

Sorcinelli, M.D., A.E. Austin, P.L. Eddy, and A.L. Beach. 2006. Creating the future of faculty development: Learning from the past, understanding the present. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Weimer, M. 2002. Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass