University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire


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Survey Indicates that Faculty and Instructional
Academic Staff Value Professional Development
Focusing on Improving Teaching

 MAILED:  Nov. 16, 2004

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's faculty and instructional academic staff are interested in professional development programs and events that relate to enhancing teaching and student learning, but barriers often prevent them from taking advantage of those opportunities, a survey of faculty and instructional staff found.

The Teaching and Learning Technology Development Center and the Network for Excellence in Teaching conducted the survey this fall. The TLTDC and NET have combined their resources in an effort to help the campus focus on student learning and learner-centered teaching.

"Results of the survey suggest that faculty and teaching academic staff are motivated by a major internal incentive to become better teachers and to enhance student learning, and they recognize the kinds of professional development events that would contribute to that outcome," said Linda Carpenter, NET coordinator.

However, the survey also found that faculty and staff want tangible support from the administration for professional development that relates to teaching, Carpenter said. Survey respondents defined tangible support as things like consideration given to those kinds of development activities when tenure and promotion is being considered, time release and monetary compensation.

"Those kinds of things would make it easier for faculty and instructional academic staff to justify devoting precious time to professional development activities that relate to enhancing teaching and student learning," said Kathy Finder, interim director of the TLTDC.

In the survey, respondents indicated high interest in professional development topics such as active learning, developing critical thinking skills, alternatives to lecturing, discussion-based instruction and collaborative learning, Finder said, noting that 140 people completed the survey. And the survey found that faculty and staff are interested in learning how they can better use technology as a tool to enhance student learning, she said.

"But while 86 percent of the respondents said they are interested in attending teaching-learning events, most said time was a significant barrier to their attending," Finder said. "They already are stretched in so many ways with the demands of teaching, research, advising, service and their personal lives."

Survey respondents said they would make professional development focusing on teaching and learning more of a priority if it counted in relation to rewards, recognition, tenure and promotion, Finder said.

"It's the rare faculty member who can do it all," Carpenter said. "Understandably, choices are being made. And they're choosing professional development that focuses on their research or their disciplines because those are the things that are valued. Professional development relating to teaching and student learning is easy to drop off the list because it doesn't count in the same way that other things do."

NET and TLTDC are committed to leading a campus shift in focus to a student-learning emphasis that values learner-centered teaching, Carpenter said. Some of their efforts involve offering professional development events in academic buildings, eliminating the need for faculty to come to Schofield Hall for the events; exploring the possibility of establishing additional teaching awards to recognize faculty who value teaching; and working with administrators to identify ways to ensure that quality teaching counts, she said.

Steve Tallant, associate vice chancellor of academic affairs, said he supports any initiative that puts an emphasis on quality teaching.

"UW-Eau Claire has earned its national reputation for excellence by providing students with an exceptional learning environment," Tallant said. "The TLTDC and NET initiatives are aimed at giving faculty opportunities to focus on improving their teaching skills, which will help ensure that students gain even more from the quality programs available to them."

Additional survey results are available on the TLTDC and NET Web sites. For more information about TLTDC and NET, contact Kathy Finder at (715) 836-2654 or or Linda Carpenter at (715) 836-4895 or



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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 201
(715) 836-4741

Updated: November 16, 2004