Faculty Development: Hanging on by a Shoestring?

Faculty Development Committee Chair

The lack of funding for faculty and staff development is beginning to show at the colleges. While enrollments and class sizes increase, student preparedness and the student skill levels in reading, writing, and mathematics decrease, and the economy forces more students into working beyond a 40-hour work week, splitting their class schedules to attend both day and night classes-although budget reductions and compressed calendars have limited class offerings. Our faculty and colleges are less able to cope with the stresses of today's community college environment. Potentially, we will be less able to meet the changing needs of community college students in 2003-2004.

When colleges had annual and predictable funding for faculty and staff development, they could offer workshops, pay for faculty and staff to attend seminars and conferences, and create innovative projects to enrich their teaching and student learning environments. Unfortunately, this past scenario is now the exception, not the norm or expectation.

Many faculty learned about teaching-learning, matching teaching style with preferred student learning modalities, and attended workshops presented by experts in the field of sound teaching methodology, meeting diverse learning styles, and updating curriculum and programs to meeting transfer and occupational needs. Most colleges "squirreled away" their faculty and staff development funding and used their carry-over funds to get through 2002-2003. Some miserly colleges managed to save a little for 2003-2004!

But now, the well has almost run dry. In response, the Academic Senate has increased the number of scholarships it can offer to faculty this year to ensure their continued professional development at the sessions and institutes it will offer; further, IMPAC's one-day, regional gatherings of intersegmental discipline faculty are offered without charge to participants-and with travel reimbursed. Yet most faculty must still rely on their innovative and creative skills to continue their professional or discipline workshops and programs with little or no funding. Some colleges managed to negotiate down the fees charged by presenters. Most colleges went to "faculty development on a shoestring'-this meant that many colleges moved to faculty sharing at noon lunch, brown-bag lunches and discussion of college issues, and other minimal-cost informational forums. While most of these programs provided good information, they do not substitute for having experts with research findings to share. For example, the neurological research being conducted today could help faculty to understand how learning occurs and how understanding the workings of the brain can improve teaching and learning.

Come to the 2003-2004 plenary breakouts to learn the latest on many faculty development topics, not just faculty development on a shoestring, geared to promoting student motivation and student achievement.