Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts

Building a Strong Faculty

May 26, 2006

Strong faculty are indispensable to healthy learning communities. In addition to providing excellent teaching, faculty serve as role models for their students, provide intellectual stimulation for their colleagues, and catalyze all aspects of the academic process.

With these words from the chapter on Building a Community of Scholars from PKAL Volume I (published in 1991), we continue our focus on reports spotlighted in PKAL's 2006 Report on Reports II.

The National Research Council's 2003 report (page 26 of the Report on Reports II) on Evaluating and Improving Undergraduate Teaching in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics offers recommendations for action by individual faculty and their peers, reflecting new insights about linking research about how people learn to the process of evaluating and improving teaching effectiveness.

The importance of institutional commitment to developing academic careers has been a thrust of PKAL from the beginning, believing that:

To remain vital, faculty need support throughout the development of their academic careers that reflects changing, complex, multi-dimensional perspectives. Dynamic faculty undertake new challenges, teach different subjects, and engage in varied types of scholarly endeavors. Focused achievable goals for faculty are important stimuli that help shape academic careers. The formulation of these goals should be encouraged and aided by their departments and institutions. (PKAL Volume I, 1991)

The seminal report from the Carnegie Endowment for the Advancement of Teaching, published in 1997, Scholarship Assessed: Evaluation of the Professoriate, should still be on the "must-read" list of those responsible for shaping meaningful scholarly careers, including individual faculty, their departmental and administrative colleagues. The clarity and specificity of questions to be raised in the shaping of scholarly goals is of great value.

The central role of faculty as models for students, able to create a future that has a range of unforeseen challenges is elegantly described in the 1999 report, Leadership Reconsidered: Engaging Higher Education in Social Change, from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Shaping a scholarly journey, at all career stages, requires asking critical questions about goals— and about the changing context for pursuing one’s goals. James Gentile, President— Research Corporation, has been a PKAL leader since the beginning, challenging us all to ask hard questions about the future of student learning in undergraduate STEM fields. Recently, Jim shared some questions that reflect his process of thinking about the future and his role as a leader in shaping that future. We present them here to catalyze reflections by others who have opportunity to shape the future for student learning in STEM fields. We invite your answers to Jim’s questions. We also invite you to share the questions you are wrestling with as you shape your scholarly journey in these challenging days.

Gentile will engage F21 members in exploring questions such as these at the 2006 National Assembly in Chicago, October 6 – 8, 2006.