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Demystifying the Faculty Developer

Written by Mike Thee
December 8, 2015

In the ecosystem of academia, faculty developers are a bit of a different breed. And while their core functions are relatively similar-to assist faculty in enhancing their teaching and research methods-faculty developers are far from homogenous. 

As director of SU's Center for Faculty Development, David Green can attest to that. He and his colleague Deandra Little of Elon University in North Carolina are taking a closer look at faculty developers. They recently completed an international study of more than 1,000 faculty developers in 38 countries. Published in the International Journal for Academic Development (IJAD), the study is a census of sorts, providing the fullest picture to date of the varying roles and backgrounds of faculty developers. 

One of the key findings of the study is that the largest group of faculty developers, one-third of the total, earned their highest degrees in fields of education while the other two-thirds represent a broad diversity of disciplines. 

This and other demographic nuggets unearthed by the study are just the beginning for Green and Little. Their next step-and what they've sought to explore all along-is the influence that faculty developers' backgrounds have on how they go about their work. 

"We want to dig more deeply into the ways we bring our own disciplinary baggage (to our roles as faculty developers)." 

Green suspects that his own discipline, German Studies, affects how he frames his work with faculty at SU. He got into faculty development, largely through "serendipity," he says. While serving as chair of languages and international business at Birmingham City University (U.K.), he became interested in research projects on teaching and learning. He started working more closely with the director of the university's faculty development program. The director asked Green to join him in that work and thus began his career in faculty development. 

While Green and his counterparts at other institutions work primarily with professors, he sees it as critical that faculty development professionals maintain a direct connection to those upon whom their work is ultimately focused: students. Green makes it a point to teach a class of undergraduate students even as he fulfills his primary responsibilities in Faculty Development. "Otherwise, you can get stale and lose touch with current students," he says. In this regard, Green is a bit of an anomaly. The study he coauthored revealed that only about third of faculty developers teach undergraduates. 

Through his scholarship and other professional work, Green has emerged as a leader in the field of faculty development. He was recently selected as a trustee and council member of the International Consortium for Educational Development (ICED), the parent organization of national networks for faculty development. In this role he serves as a liaison between the consortium and the IJAD, which is its academic journal. 

Green joined SU in 2006 and in 2011 was named director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL). In 2013, the center was renamed the Center for Faculty Development to better reflect how such centers are known nationally and to more accurately describe its functions. It still goes by its original acronym. While teaching and learning remain at the heart of the CETL's work, the center also focuses on the scholarship of teaching and learning, and supports faculty in professional development, research and administrative leadership. 

You can learn more about the center here.