Faculty Development Implementation Plan
An Implementation Plan For The Faculty Sevelopment Task Force Recommendations
Submitted by the
TABLE OF CONTENTS
In Spring 2006 the Provost convened a Faculty Development Advisory Council, representing faculty, administration and staff from across the University, to design an Implementation Plan for the Faculty Development Task Force Recommendations. Guided by the Task Force's concern for recruitment and retention of excellent faculty, the organization of the Plan follows the three major sections of the Task Force Report. Responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the recommendations would be assigned to a SUNY Faculty Development Council (FDC) to be established by the Provost.
1. Faculty Development Activity Across the State University
Leadership, coordination, and communication of faculty development efforts, especially in the areas of teaching, research and creative activity, and service, were important concerns of the Task Force Report. In order to facilitate communication and coordination, the FDC would serve as a clearinghouse to collect, review, and disseminate information about current practices throughout the system. Information about the existing campus teaching and learning centers, their directors, and activities would be shared System wide. The FDC would review and publish model statements of institutional expectations for research and creative activity, and service at SUNY campuses. In order to provide the broadest sharing of ideas and best practices, the FDC would organize a conference to be held in 2007 and create a faculty development Website accessible through a SUNY e-portal.
2. Reappointment, Promotion, and Tenure Procedures Across the State University
Retention of the best SUNY faculty as they progress in their careers is an important Task Force goal. The FDC would enlist the aid of the Chief Academic Officers to collect, review, and publish model descriptions of the means by which reappointment, promotion, tenure, or continuing appointment criteria and procedures are clearly communicated to faculty. In order to help faculty meet those criteria, the FDC would facilitate a better understanding and use of orientation programs, mentoring practices, and portfolios. Furthermore, the FDC would continue working on the needs of part-time faculty and on opportunities for SUNY faculty to acquire terminal degrees or pursue other professional growth and development, especially through enrollment in SUNY credit and degree offerings.
3. Recognizing and Rewarding Excellence Across the State University
Recognizing that honors and rewards assure faculty that their efforts are worthwhile, the Task Force recommended strengthening recognition at both the campus and System levels. In addition to encouraging local recognition, the FDC would compile an honors database of SUNY faculty who have achieved Distinguished Ranks, received Chancellor's Awards, or earned other significant national or international recognition. This wealth of faculty excellence would be posted in a searchable database, so it could also be used to locate and invite honorees as visiting lecturers, involve them in the leadership of SUNY initiatives, and promote these SUNY faculty as experts for national and international endeavors.
Because lack of funding is most frequently mentioned as the obstacle to providing effective faculty development opportunities, the FDC would identify and pursue alternative sources of funding for increased faculty development System wide, as well as encouraging support from System Administration and local campuses.
The Advisory Council has designed an implementation plan that builds on the current strengths in SUNY faculty development. It seeks to identify best practices and share them in dynamic ways with other campuses, so that faculty will be consistently supported throughout their careers. By making expectations clear to new faculty, supporting their activities, evaluating them fairly, and recognizing their achievements, excellent faculty members will want to stay in SUNY. With a reputation for such faculty development, SUNY will continue to attract distinguished faculty in the future.
History of the Initiative
SUNY has always recognized the importance of faculty development. In a new initiative starting in 2002, the Provost formed an Advisory Task Force on Faculty Development and charged it with examining the state of faculty development across the SUNY system. The group's Report of the Provost's Advisory Task Force on Faculty Development distributed in October of 2005 contains recommendations to strengthen "the academic environment and the ongoing retention and development of the State University of New York faculty and future leadership." The next step was to plan for the implementation of these recommendations.
In February 2006, the Provost called together an Advisory Council representing faculty and administration from all sectors of the University and charged its members with developing a plan for implementing the Task Force Report's recommendations (Appendices A & B), including consideration of faculty development needs, best practices, innovations, effectiveness, and the search for additional resources. The Faculty Development Advisory Council respectfully submits this plan with the confidence that it will focus attention on the Faculty Development Initiative, effectively implement the Task Force recommendations, and provide for ongoing improvements.
Attracting and keeping outstanding faculty is essential to SUNY's progress toward becoming a truly exceptional university. As individuals are recruited for positions at any SUNY institution, the campus should present these new faculty with clear performance expectations. While the faculty pursue their professional activities, the University should actively support their efforts. Then, when these faculty seek reappointment, promotion, tenure, or continuing appointment, they should have no doubt that they will experience a fair evaluation process. Finally, having succeeded in their disciplines, they should receive appropriate recognition and be promoted to serve the educational community and the citizens of New York.
Everyone realizes that faculty must remain current with the changing content in their disciplines, adapt to new technologies, make scholarly contributions to their fields, and respond to an increasingly diverse student body. In spite of this universal agreement, faculty development is easily underfunded or even neglected. Funding for such efforts must compete with all of the other demands and constraints on campus budgets. Often other pressing concerns, such as accommodating state and county shortfalls, restraining high faculty-student ratios, repairing infrastructure, and adopting new or maintaining current levels of technologies are funded and little money is left for the funding of faculty development activities. By consistently implementing this vision of clear expectations, active support, fair evaluation, and appropriate recognition, SUNY will increase its retention of excellent faculty, enhance its national reputation, and continue to attract distinguished faculty in the future.
The Advisory Council developed a strategy of multiple, interdependent components because faculty development is complex. The Faculty Development Task Force in its "Summary of Literature and Research" (Task Force Report, Appendix B, "Definitions and Historical Perspectives"), identifies five elements that faculty development usually seeks to improve: 1) teaching skills, 2) courses or curriculum, 3) institutional structure, 4) job-related skills, and 5) personal skills. In addition to these elements of development, the Task Force recommendations relate to faculty at all stages of their careers from hiring to recognition for outstanding achievement. Consequently, activities, such as the creation of a Website and the organization of a conference, will contribute to the implementation of several recommendations.
The strategy details an implementation plan for addressing the nineteen recommendations enumerated in the Report of the Provost's Advisory Task Force on Faculty Development (Appendix C) and discusses those recommendations according to the three major categories of the Task Force Report:
The plan ends with a discussion of ways the implementation plan can be brought to the attention of faculty and administrators System wide and used to facilitate recognition, fair evaluation and significant professional growth for all members of the SUNY faculty community.
The first six recommendations of the Task Force Report deal with leadership, coordination, and communication of faculty development efforts, especially in the areas of teaching, research and creative activity, and service. The implementation of these and subsequent recommendations will require considerable effort by a number of individuals. For the purposes of this document, the responsibility will be assigned to a suggested group called the Faculty Development Council (FDC). The present Advisory Council could be asked to continue in that capacity, or the Provost could appoint another similarly representative group.
The Faculty Development Council could be modeled on the Faculty Access to Computing Technology (FACT) committee. FACT sponsors an annual conference, funds regional conferences on computing in the disciplines, and represents a collaborative effort of all SUNY schools to share information and resources related to faculty uses of computing. A similar committee, fostered and funded by a SUNY office, would be an appropriate way to balance central support with local efforts and to provide a clearinghouse for dealing with the communication, campus exchange, and shared-resources recommendations of the Task Force. Furthermore, the SUNY Training Center's current work in support of the FACT committee might also be a model to consider for providing administrative support to a Faculty Development Council made up of faculty representatives from across the system.
The first two recommendations of the Task Force encourage all campuses to establish teaching and learning centers with respected leadership that specifically supports faculty efforts to deliver excellence in teaching through local programming and through making connections with other institutions. This spring, Westchester's Center for Faculty collected a list of individuals from 43 SUNY campuses who represent faculty development efforts at their institutions. Many head teaching and learning centers, but some work in other areas of faculty life and have an assignment in faculty development as part of their work. When defined this broadly, it is likely that nearly all SUNY campuses have someone who would be appropriate for this list.
Although the Task Force recommends that outstanding faculty be the directors of teaching and learning centers, its recommendations encourage but don't require them. Campuses with weak or no organizational structure need help strengthening their efforts. They can benefit from hearing about the best practices throughout the System. Similarly, campuses with centers can learn from others with different models.
Sharing the faculty development work at the existing teaching and learning centers will be an important means by which all campuses strengthen their teaching and learning efforts. Examples of such collaborations already exist in some areas. For example, Broome Community College, Cornell, Cortland, and Tompkins Cortland Community College have been holding annual teaching and learning meetings together for several years. This April, Westchester Community College convened participants from 17 campuses to share their current projects and resource ideas. Another resource that can contribute to the growth of teaching and learning centers on the campuses is the SUNY Training Center, whose academic programs offer a number of avenues for supplementing teaching and learning programs. Strengthening the faculty development mission of the SUNY Training Center can be an additional way to broaden support for faculty development system wide. Such groups can be coordinated to form a System-wide faculty development community.
A faculty development conference in 2007 will facilitate System-wide sharing of ideas and practices, build momentum, and demonstrate commitment to the initiative. A nationally known speaker or speakers will launch conversations about effective trends and activities across the country. Acknowledging the excellent work already being done in SUNY, presenters will share best practices in the System. In addition to hearing about exciting and useful activities, participants will be able to seek answers to questions and network with other participants. Agenda items could include, but need not be limited to, any of the areas about which the Task Force made recommendations (Appendix D). In order to focus the conference on issues relevant to the campuses, the Chief Academic Officers will be surveyed for the most important topics that would benefit their faculty. By considering various concepts of faculty development, sharing innovative activities and resources, and discussing possibilities for funding, the conference will result in better support for faculty throughout the SUNY system.
While all campuses have expectations and procedures for evaluating professional activity and research, the Task Force was concerned about the "considerable unevenness" across the System in conveying clear information regarding expectations. Although mission-related variations are strengths of the SUNY System, variations in quality are undesirable. Consequently, Task Force recommendations 3 and 4 address the need for campuses to review these expectations and clarify them where necessary. Task Force members were especially concerned that service was less well defined and valued than research and creative activity. Since evaluation and the criteria used are important considerations in labor agreements, implementing the recommendations must avoid interfering with contracts. Nevertheless, collecting and publishing these local statements for wider audiences are beneficial for clarifying criteria, definitions, and rewards by individual campuses, sectors, and System so that campuses can use them to refine their own.
The Task Force recognized the value of new technologies to facilitate faculty development. A SUNY Web resource will implement a number of immediate and ongoing communication needs articulated in the Task Force recommendations. Certainly, local campuses should post information about their own faculty development activities. In addition, a clearinghouse is needed to pull together the information from local campuses and make it accessible to all interested parties, with other useful information collected and added, either as an intranet or accessible to the public.
Ultimately, a sophisticated Web presence, or virtual teaching and learning center, for SUNY faculty development will publicize faculty development as one of SUNY's strengths and, consequently, serve as a faculty recruiting tool. Features of the Web resource should include the following:
The Website will make such information readily accessible, easily updateable, and permanently available. Various campus and System-level resources are available for assisting with the construction of Websites. Also, several SUNY System units (ITEC, SUNY libraries, SLN, the SUNY Training Center, and the Business Internet Portal Project) are currently exploring e-portals into which materials developed for this site could be integrated. Meanwhile, an existing Website could house the emerging collection, such as the Teaching/Learning/Technology Center <http://tlt.suny.edu>, Faculty Access to Computing Technology <http://www.fact.suny.edu/>, or the SUNY Training Center <http://www.tc.suny.edu/>).
The Task Force focused on the goal of retaining the best professors. While all campuses have expectations and procedures for evaluation, the Task Force was again concerned about the "considerable unevenness" across the System in conveying clear information regarding reappointment, promotion, tenure, or continuing appointment procedures. Although mission-related variations are strengths of the SUNY System, variations in quality are undesirable. Consequently, best communication practices and supportive activities are again useful.
The Faculty Development Council will survey the Chief Academic Officers to ascertain the means by which reappointment, promotion, tenure, or continuing appointment criteria and procedures are communicated to faculty. One part of the survey will address the definitions and relative weighting of criteria, especially teaching, faculty service, research, and creative activity. Another part of the survey will address the ways in which faculty are informed, mentored, and reviewed. The FDC will review the definitions for models and variations that might help individual campuses, sectors, and System in clarifying criteria for rewards. The FDC will analyze the methods for best practices, with special attention to concrete, continuous communication, verbal and written feedback, annual planning and progress review, and components that assess, advise, and mentor.
The Task Force emphasized conveying a complete understanding of the processes to new faculty at the earliest opportunity. Recognizing that virtually all campuses do a good job, there is still value in publishing best practices. Furthermore, a new faculty orientation could be developed for System-wide use. The format for such a program could be face-to-face, a Web seminar or even an interactive video distributed as a videoconference or recorded on CD or DVD, but its contents would need to be specifically focused on relevant information for new faculty that would directly benefit them in meeting their teaching, research, creative activities, and service expectations. A carefully designed interactive event focused on faculty services available beyond the local campus could potentially shorten the learning curve for a new faculty member. The SUNY Training Center has been exploring such an all-SUNY, new faculty instrument for some time and is interested in collaborating with the FDC to design such a project.
Mentoring programs can be an especially useful approach to informing faculty about institutional expectations and processes and helping them with advancement. Because creating a peer-mentoring culture is an especially important activity, the SUNY Faculty Senate, in collaboration with the Faculty Council of Community Colleges and the Faculty Development Advisory Council, has already formed a task force to investigate concepts, methods, incentives, and best practices for mentoring. The Mentoring Task Force is starting by surveying current practices on campuses.
The Faculty Development Council can offer crucial support. It can help distribute information about mentoring best practices and guidelines on the faculty development Website and include presentations about design, implementation, and assessment of mentoring programs as topics at the State-wide conference. The FDC can also help support mentoring conversations using media, such as Videoconferences, electronic forums, Web seminars, and listservs, in addition to face-to-face discussions.
Faculty Teaching Portfolios
Information about faculty teaching portfolios is already appearing in "Conversation in the Disciplines" and "Conversations on Computing in the Disciplines" events, as well as on many campuses where portfolios are part of the standard reappointment, promotion, tenure, or continuing appointment dossier. The Faculty Development Council will include these ideas and events in its plans for the Website and conference. Furthermore, some training sessions on what to expect from and how to read portfolios documenting teaching or service would be useful to administrators, department chairs, and members who serve on reappointment, promotion, tenure, or continuing appointment committees.
Faculty Access to SUNY courses
The Advisory Council strongly supports that coursework in SUNY institutions be readily accessible to current instructional staff members working to complete degrees, to increase their knowledge of their disciplines, or to improve their classroom skills. SUNY needs to support its own faculty and staff not only by allowing but also by encouraging participation in the system of academic excellence that it creates. Many public higher education institutions across the nation already have a system of participation for credit and programmatic offerings for their members (Appendix F). An Advisory Council subcommittee is working on suggestions for providing SUNY community college faculty access to SUNY courses because these faculty don't have the benefit of the grants available to faculty at the State-operated campuses that are funded by the Joint Labor-Management Committees.
A particular challenge of current campus staffing is the growing presence of individuals who serve SUNY students part time. Even though every effort should be made to increase the number of full-time faculty, improving the skills and credentials of part-time faculty, a group that contributes to SUNY's teaching mission is a significant way, will further enhance the quality of the current faculty. A subcommittee of the Advisory Council is working on suggestions that would target the needs of part-time faculty.
In recommendations 13-19, the Task Force recognized that honors and rewards assure faculty that their efforts are worthwhile. The Task Force was impressed by "the extent to which programs exist to acknowledge and celebrate faculty and staff accomplishments and honors related to teaching, scholarship and creative activity, and service." It is important that System-wide awards be offered to all units of the University; consequently, the Distinguished Ranks have already been expanded to include faculty at any of the community colleges that want to participate.
In addition to the System-wide awards programs, many campuses have their own complement of recognitions. Publication of the awards, procedures, and recipients on local and System faculty development Websites would increase visibility, help to promote reward programs where they don't already exist, and encourage campuses to involve these outstanding faculty in a wide range of mentoring, service, and leadership roles.
The System, searchable database of award-winning faculty should include, at a minimum: recipient's name, home campus, department and/or discipline, name of honor or reward received (e.g., selection as Nobel Laureate, receipt of Guggenheim Fellowships, Fulbright Awards, Distinguished Ranks, Chancellor's Awards, appointment to national academies), year of designation, and cross-references to their fields of expertise and most notable contributions. This honors database could be used to locate experts for visiting lecturers or participants in SUNY System, national, and international initiatives. It could also be the source of names of individuals who might serve as Faculty Development Council advisors. Website promotion could feature award winners or video clips of the award ceremonies.
Lack of funding is most frequently mentioned as the obstacle to providing effective faculty development opportunities. Without some budget allocation, people are not inclined to take such initiatives very seriously. Of course, the fundamental responsibility for faculty development resides in the local campus operating budgets. On the other hand, this plan should not impose unfunded mandates upon the campuses. Ultimately, it is particularly important for the Faculty Development Council to identify sources of funding that will help individual campuses, sectors, and the entire System to continue faculty development now and in the future.
Although most campuses already fund faculty development in a variety of ways, but at varying levels, it would be helpful for campuses to have a benchmark to assess their individual campus commitment to faculty development and for making improvements to their efforts. In addition, every opportunity should be taken to explore innovative funding methods and sources, negotiate funds in contracts, and provide seed monies for initiatives. Some options for funding might include:
Implementing the recommendations of the Task Force will create a positive climate for faculty development and continue building the faculty development community across the 64 SUNY campuses. Even though faculty development may seem to be a clearly beneficial management strategy for institutions where teaching, learning, scholarly activities, and service are the primary mission, frequently a gap exists between the intentions and the actions. The Faculty Development Council will need to generate enthusiasm among the administration and faculty System wide in order to provide motivation for campuses to join. Certainly, leadership will be necessary to foster excellence in terms of arranging for shared resources, opportunities for creative exchange of ideas, and funding of innovative projects.
Another way to achieve local ownership of a faculty development initiative and thus retain enthusiasm for it is to support some visible and effective projects at the campus or regional level. Again, the Faculty Access to Computing Technologies committee offers a model in the form of the Conversations On Computing In the Disciplines (COCID) grant program that supported seven small regional conferences on specific instructional computing topics across the state in 2005-06. These meetings generally draw over a hundred faculty and staff from nearby schools and are focused on a specific topic, such as e-portfolios and hybrid, distance, and face-to-face technology courses. Campuses contribute in-kind and matching funds to support the meetings. The FACT committee considers this program a very productive use of their modest investment in local programming. Supporting such projects is a cost-effective way to stimulate local involvement and build regional cooperation.
Sharing permeates the Task Force recommendations and plays an important role in creating enthusiasm. Consequently, the implementation plan builds on the experiences of those campuses that have had good success with faculty development. The System-wide conference will be an important means to bring together campus representatives and continue building a thriving faculty development community. Consistency across time and a reliable presence of a Faculty Development Council that represents all the types of SUNY campuses, if not all the individual campuses, and some effective administrative support for the FDC will allow for the long-term evolution of a significant faculty development effort across the System. An energetic group that is attentive to local needs, interested in innovation, and supportive of shared expertise will guide the evolution of the Provost's Faculty Development Initiative
SUNY has always encouraged and supported faculty development. This plan supports communication among the most knowledgeable and most interested colleagues System wide in support of faculty in all stages of their careers. Furthermore, it captures the most useful information and practices in technologically dynamic formats to make them readily available. By making expectations clear to new faculty, supporting their activities, evaluating them fairly, and recognizing their achievements, excellent faculty members will want to stay in SUNY. With a reputation for such faculty development, SUNY will continue to attract distinguished faculty in the future. During the course of implementing the recommendations, new ideas and activities will be identified that will suggest ways to continue the pursuit of excellence.
Faculty are the greatest resource that the State University of New York has to achieve its mission and to transform SUNY into a truly exceptional university. Our faculty must constantly work to remain current with the changing content in their disciplines, adapt to new technologies, make scholarly contributions to their fields, and respond to an increasingly diverse student body. Therefore, faculty development is of the utmost importance to strengthening SUNY.
Recognizing the significance of ongoing intellectual, scholarly, and professional growth, I established in the Fall of 2002 the Provost's Advisory Task Force on Faculty Development. This group of faculty and administrators from all sectors of the University worked diligently to survey a broad range of issues, examine best practices, and consider supporting resources. This activity culminated in the Report of the Provost's Advisory Task Force on Faculty Development, that contains recommendations to strengthen "the academic environment and the ongoing retention and development of the State University of New York faculty and future leadership."
The Task Force's Report has provided a rationale and direction for implementing a comprehensive Faculty Development Initiative. It is now time to act on their recommendations, not randomly, but in a clearly defined, well-planned, and organized fashion. We need an implementation strategy that will build on SUNY's tradition of excellence, maximize the impact of the recommendations, and set the parameters for continuous improvement.
The Charge to this Advisory Council is to prepare the strategy for implementing the Report's recommendations, which are grouped into five general areas of emphasis:
Faculty development needs, best practices, innovations, effectiveness, and the search for additional resources are important considerations as the Advisory Council develops the components of a comprehensive plan.
The resulting implementation strategy should balance the goal of System-wide standards of excellence in the expectations for and support of faculty development with the realization that campus-based decisions reflective of and responsive to the unique mission and characteristics of each institution will achieve higher levels of participation and excellence.
As with the original Task Force, this Advisory Council reflects the diversity of the System. In collaboration with the University Faculty Senate and the Faculty Council of Community Colleges, this Council is composed of both faculty and administrators from all System sectors. You have been invited to participate on the Council based on the recommendation of your peers for the excellence of your work and your dedication to SUNY. Therefore, I look forward to receiving your proposal, and I have high expectations and confidence that your work will significantly influence the future quality of the education on all of our campuses.
Possible Agenda Items
In order to assure the relevance of the conference, campus Chief Academic Officers (CAO) will be asked to identify the three most important areas in which each campus would like to make improvements. This request would be discussed at the CAO meeting in June and followed by a letter of request. These areas would be built into the agenda of the conference.
The conference would be scheduled for spring 2007 to allow for the accomplishment of a few activities before the conference and to continue building momentum.
The conference should involve honored faculty.
Abstracts of presentations would be posted on the Faculty Development Website.
Conference assessment would include the solicitation of additional ideas for continuing the initiative. After a reasonable period of time, a faculty development plan could be requested from campus CAOs, which might be an activity built into the last track.
The SUNY faculty development Web presence will serve both immediate and ongoing faculty development needs. Individuals on the campuses and at System Administration have collected a variety of information. However, a clearinghouse is needed to pull together these pieces and make them accessible to all interested parties, with other useful information collected and added. Ultimately, a sophisticated Web version of SUNY faculty development would publicize faculty development as one of SUNY's strengths and, consequently, would serve as a faculty recruiting tool. Features of the Website would include:
The Website will make such information readily accessible and permanently available. Implementation of this strategy will require web design, coordinated collection of information, data entry, and maintenance.