How to Evaluate Your Faculty Development Services
Faculty development is a nationwide phenomenon that emerged from the academic accountability movement in the early 1970s, yet rarely was there interest in evaluating the effectiveness of this effort—until now.
Faculty developers across the nation are working on developing methods to evaluate their services. In 2010, the 35th Annual Professional Organizational and Development Network Conference identified assessing the impact of faculty development as a key priority. It was this growing demand that spawned my interest in conducting a 2007 statewide and a 2010 nationwide investigation of faculty development evaluation practices in the U.S. This article will describe how to develop a customized evaluation plan based on your program’s structure, purpose, and desired results, based on contemporary practices discovered through this research.
First, working definitions of “evaluation,” “assessment,” and “program” need to be established since oftentimes these terms have led to confusion. “Evaluation” is defined as judging the effectiveness of various services to determine value and improvements. “Assessment” means determination of the level to which the center achieved its specific outcomes—similar to academic program assessment. Directors of faculty development centers appear to be more interested in measuring for improvement and merit (i.e., evaluation) than in designing and measuring program outcomes and indicators (i.e., assessment). “Program” is oftentimes used in reference to a faculty development center and the center’s themed offerings, such as a mentoring program, grant program, instructional program, and consultation services. Therefore, “program” will refer to the center’s services and themed offerings in this article.
Before an evaluation plan can be developed, it is important to carefully examine three situational factors unique to your faculty development center: the structure, purpose, and evaluation mind-set. There are four faculty development structures typically found at universities: (1) a large, centralized, university-funded program with a full-time director and staff; (2) a smaller, low-budget program with a faculty member acting as a part-time director with a part-time administrative assistant; (3) a dean or department head organizing events loosely based on strategic planning; and (4) no structure, instead faculty are responsible for self-development (Minter, 2009). Evaluation is possible with any staff size, yet the extent will vary accordingly.
Second, consider the purpose of the center. For example, is it designed to meet the needs of faculty or the institution, or to promote academic quality? Programs focused on the needs of faculty tend to evaluate faculty behavior. Those targeting institutional needs extend measurements to impacts on the institution, and those that focus on academic quality tend to emphasize evaluation of faculty and student learning outcomes.
Third, the evaluator’s mind-set needs close examination. The research indicated this area to be the mostimpactful element in evaluation planning. Those who believed that program evaluation was beneficial, and informative, and that it improved practices were more likely to implement a routine, systemized, in-depth evaluation process. Those who believed it was an act of accountability, difficult to do, or done only for resource requests oftentimes created an evaluation system based on reports of faculty participation and satisfaction.
The next step is to consider the level to which each program should be evaluated, keeping in mind the impact of the situational factors. The research identified six evaluation levels: (1) participation, (2) satisfaction, (3) learning, (4) impact on teaching, (5) impact on student learning outcomes, and (6) impact on the institution. Think of each level as concentric rings (like ripples) emanating from a center point representing a single program or service. Determine the level to which each program needs to be evaluated, based on the center’s purpose and program’s desired outcome or goal. Then determine the timing for each level of evaluation. Consider staging out and staggering the evaluation process—especially if staff levels are low or workload is high. For example, gather participation, learning, and satisfaction data for your mentoring program until a significant number of faculty members have participated. Then at that point, evaluate the impact the program had on the attendees teaching practices. Another option is to gather participation, learning, and satisfaction data for new workshops then stop gathering satisfaction data after receiving high reports from three consecutive sessions. Or if a program is designed for high impact on student learning outcomes and institutional change, such as a large course redesign program, then plan for gathering baseline and follow up measures on a term or annual basis. Additionally, if multiple programs are going to be evaluated for impact on teaching or beyond, stagger the process so an in-depth evaluation is done on one program per year.
As you develop your evaluation plan, remember that program evaluation should be tailored to measure your level of interest specific to each individual program. The research showed that measuring out to the institutional level was typically reserved for high-impact programs specifically designed to increase student progression and retention. Measuring out to the student learning level was typically seen in high-impact programs designed to improve student learning, such as grant programs, learning community programs, and intensive instructional improvement initiatives.
Once the evaluation levels and timing are determined for each program, decide on the evaluation methods to be used. Keep in mind that multiple measures increase reliability, and efficient strategies leads to a greater likelihood of implementation. The table below lists methods and strategies used for measuring the six levels at various colleges and universities involved in the research.
|Level I: Participation |
(Who is participating in the faculty development programs and services?)
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|Level II: Satisfaction |
(What was the participant’s level of satisfaction?)
|Level III: Learning |
(Did the participants learn?)
| || |
|Level IV: Impact on teaching |
(Did participants change their attitudes or practices as a result of the program?)
| || |
|Level V: Impact on Student Learning Outcomes |
(Did the student learning outcomes change as a result of the program?)
| || |
|Level VI: Impact on the Institution |
(Was there an institutional change as a result of the program?)
| || |
Last, once the evaluation levels, methods, and timing are determined for each program or service, identify who will be responsible for gathering the data and when the analysis will occur. Setting time aside for an annual data review and implementation is common.
Evaluation of faculty development programs can be done in an efficient and effective manner by developing a systemized plan designed for staggered, staged-out evaluation that considers staff time and available technology. Following this evaluation approach will lead to feasible, purposeful, and informative data that can you help determine whether faculty development really is making a difference.
Hines, S.R. (2009). Investigating faculty development program assessment practices: What’s being done and how can it be improved? Journal of Faculty Development, 23(3), 5-19.
Hines, S. R. (in press). How established centralized teaching and learning centers evaluate their services. In J. Miller & J. Grocia (Ed.), To Improve the Academy (30). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Minter, R.L. (2009). The paradox of faculty development. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 2(4), 65-70.
Sue Hines is the director of faculty development and an assistant professor at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and teaches in SMU’s doctor of education in leadership program.