During the 1980s, there has been an enormous amount of interest in the idea of faculty development. But what exactly does faculty development mean? Is the expression used so often and imprecisely that it loses all meaning? Surely everyone must favor faculty development?
My feeling was that faculty development was something that every good college must do as a matter of enlightened management. I decided to investigate the topic in two ways. First, I read some of the literature (mostly in higher education, but some discipline-based), looking especially at definitions and assumptions about faculty development. Second, I conducted a survey of chairs of departments of political science, suggesting a definition of faculty development and asking about their experiences.
Many articles dealing with faculty development are too broad and fail to define the term. There is also a tendency to equate faculty development with improved teaching (Lacefield, 1983; Moses, 1984). One exception is this:
Faculty development … means all the activities designed to improve faculty performance in all aspects of their professional lives—as teachers, scholars, advisers, academic leaders, and contributors to institutional decisions (Nelsen, 1983, p. 70).
Applying such a broad definition suggests that faculty development occurs constantly at all levels of an institution, which does not take us very far in trying to analyze its effectiveness.
Mosely (1981) suggests three different foci: faculty development; instructional development; and organizational development. Development of a faculty's skills should occur automatically as part of good academic administration. If Penn State provides me with a computer in my office or gives me a research assistant, I will perform better, albeit with slow, incremental improvement. More central to an understanding of faculty development are those cases where faculty achieve a substantial improvement in their performance. In order to assess the nature and incidence of these cases of “substantial improvement,” I surveyed chairs of departments of political science in the U.S. A questionnaire was sent to each institution with at least eight faculty where one individual had been chair for at least five years, presumably long enough to get a perspective on faculty development.