Faculty who become instructional innovators and effective teachers share certain characteristics such as their expressions of equal respect toward academic staff, graduate students, and undergraduates, their command of a variety of instructional strategies that promote students’ conceptual understanding, and their ability to apply knowledge in new situations. These findings of an ethnographic study by Susan Millar, University of Wisconsin, served as a central point of discussion for the participants with reference to issue 3.
One element of issue 3 that participants focused on was whether opportunities and incentives for faculty to become familiar with different modes of instruction are sufficient to provoke needed changes in teaching? In responding to this question, several speakers and participants including Robert Zemsky, University of Pennsylvania, Herb Levitan, National Science Foundation, and Jack Wilson, UMassOnline, addressed the need to change the entire culture of higher education by a “top-down and bottom-up” approach. In the present structure of most institutions of higher learning, especially in research-intensive universities, incentives for faculty to learn new teaching methods are few.
Some of the strategies by which presidents, deans, and department chairs might encourage such cultural change included publicly announcing a fund earmarked for the support of faculty efforts to develop new courses; rewarding faculty efforts to improve instruction by allotting release time, summer stipends, or sabbatical leave; modifying promotion and tenure policies in ways that motivate faculty to spend time and effort on developing new teaching methods or redesigning courses to be more learner centered; providing instruction and mentoring for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty in effective teaching practices; and recognizing time spent in the redesign of introductory courses or in research on teaching and learning the discipline as evidence of a faculty member’s productivity as a teacher-scholar.