Teaching the Teachers

by Barbara Elmore

If a professor wants to get to Point X in her academic career by next year, she might:

A. Discuss issues with a mentor
B. Sit in on a panel discussion about engaging students
C. Attend a workshop that dissects teaching techniques
D. Continue pursuing research ideas
E. All of the above

The answer is E. And the lack of time in a day helps explain why the business school has built a strategy of development instead of just putting an idea out there for the professor to do on her own – IF she has the time, IF she believes the development opportunity speaks to her, and IF she doesn’t have another appointment.

Ideas of how to develop faculty are changing because universities are changing, noted Jeff Tanner, associate dean of Research and Faculty Development. The changes tilt toward career orientation and forging paths that professors can travel efficiently, he said. Although a professor’s upward mobility may not result in a new title, it will likely be evident in new responsibilities.

Complicating and helping the changes are new teaching technologies and a new kind of student.

“Millennials are different in how they learn and interact, and we have new tools that we use to do our research. The faculty realized they needed to do something in order to stay up with it,” Tanner said.

Associate professor Blaine McCormick is among the professors learning new ways to communicate with students by using social media and a regular blog – but not e-mail.

“Students today don’t read e-mail as much as previous years,” he said. “It’s a new generational gap. In fact, some colleges have stopped issuing email addresses to students.”

Millennials, who were born between 1980 and 2000, do their coursework through social media channels like Facebook pages or blogs, McCormick said.

“I can get responses quicker via Facebook and texting rather than e-mail,” McCormick said.

The commitment to keep up with new technology results in more effective teaching, he said. To navigate the ocean of practices, tools and gadgets, McCormick attends a seminar run by the New Media Consortium in Baylor’s Academy for Teaching and Learning.

“We learn about Web 2.0 technologies and how they are changing teaching technology,” McCormick said. “The collaborative technologies that exist online are amazing.”

“If I understand corporate practice right, it’s about how quick I can get them up to capable speed,” McCormick added. “That is my challenge. They are swimming in information, and they have to figure out how to process it and apply it as quickly as possible to the current situation. Add the importance of building collaboration across multiple parties and multiple locations and you get a sense of the landscape.”

McCormick finds himself not only reading The Wall Street Journal online with his students, but also creating YouTube videos and interacting with students through the course blog.

“I want to be in the work flow of where they are looking,” McCormick said. “When that happens, you can more easily extend the class discussion beyond the classroom.”

Another sort of faculty development occurred in September 2010 during a one-day symposium to mark the 25th anniversary of the Center for Professional Selling. The event included invitations to 50 faculty and practitioners who focused on 10 different topic areas. Participants included sales executives; brand-new faculty members with success in publishing; mid-career faculty with tenure; senior faculty; and international faculty.

New faculty teamed with the mid-career professors as team leaders. Senior faculty acted as mentors, Tanner said. Each group developed a paper around a particular topic. Their work will be submitted to a journal and presented in spring 2011 at the Academy of Marketing Science annual conference.

“The idea was to provide mentorship to faculty, who then provide mentorship to others, and to encourage faculty to further a stream of research they had already started,” Tanner said. International participants provided working relationships and opportunities to Baylor sales faculty.

For several years, the business school also has engaged Yezdi Bhada, emeritus professor and co-director of the master teacher program at Georgia State University, to develop a workshop.

“These are not just war stories,” Tanner said. “They are evidence-based and very structured with specific techniques that faculty can use to improve teaching.”

The Hankamer School of Business has been emphasizing faculty development for years in both teaching and research, said Patricia Norman, who has chaired the business school’s Faculty Development Committee since 2006 and a universitywide Faculty Development Committee from 2004 to 2006. The business school panel creates opportunities for faculty to hear from other great teachers, Norman said, such as a Hankamer faculty lunch with the Robert Foster Cherry Professor for Great Teaching.

“We have seminars where we bring in noted experts on subjects such as how to better engage students,” Norman, an associate professor of Management, said.

In one session, two panelists, including a Wall Street Journal columnist, talked about how to engage students in ethics discussions. And in a series of both formal and informal sessions, faculty members converse about teaching challenges and suggest ways of improving.

Departments within the business school create their own development opportunities, Norman added, such as a collegial pre-tenure review process to look at how professors are performing in research and teaching. Participants work with mentors and get feedback, she said.

“The development that takes places at a department level is teaching-focused but also looks at research,” Norman added.

Also, new faculty audit the classes of professors noted for their teaching. This exposes the auditors to various ways of approaching subject material and students. In addition, tenured faculty members observe the teaching of professors new to Baylor and give feedback on what works well and what needs improvement.

Individual departments also bring in speakers and plan research seminars, Norman said.

“Both Accounting and Economics departments have done teaching development workshops,” she said.

The Faculty Development Committee includes representatives from each department and includes both new members and veterans to provide continuity.

“We try to get people who care about developing their colleagues to serve,” said Norman, who has been a member since 2004.

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Baylor Business Review, Spring 2011

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