Keeping Up With… Faculty Development

This edition of Keeping Up With… was written by Katelyn Handler and Lauren Hays.

Katelyn Handler is a Reference and Instruction Librarian, email:; and Lauren Hays is Instructional and Research Librarian at MidAmerica Nazarene University, email:

What is Faculty Development?

Faculty development “is commonly used to describe activities and programs designed to improve instruction” in higher education. [1]  Although faculty themselves are recognized as experts within their disciplines, very few graduate programs place an emphasis on how to effectively disseminate that expertise in the classroom, leaving it up to individual educators, and the institutions at which they are teaching, to fill the gap in developing teaching practices. Furthermore, faculty are facing increased pressure due to more emphasis being placed on student performance measurables both in and out of the classroom, leading to faculty and departments seeking ways to better inform their teaching practices. 

Due to this pressure, in addition to changing demographics among college students and new course formats and modalities, many institutions are bolstering their faculty development offerings through teaching centers and other on-campus efforts. This expansion, with a focus on continuous learning for faculty, highlights the belief that by improving the teaching skills of faculty members, institutions will see corresponding better student learning outcomes. 

Trends in Faculty Development

In 2014, Hanover Research published an article that highlighted three trends in faculty development: 

  1. Development is going digital: Supporting faculty in the use of educational technology.
  2. Mentorship should cast a wide net: Mentoring networks among faculty of various ranks and disciplines, as opposed to traditional mentor-mentee relationships.
  3. Support is needed at every level: Expansion of development programs beyond junior faculty. [2]

In order to create networks for support and mentorship, many institutions have implemented an approach involving faculty learning communities. According to Miami University, a faculty learning community is “a group of trans-disciplinary faculty, graduate students and professional staff group of size 6-15 or more (8 to 12 is the recommended size) engaging in an active, collaborative, yearlong program with a curriculum about enhancing teaching and learning and with frequent seminars and activities that provide learning, development, transdisciplinarity, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and community building. [3] Faculty learning communities may be cohort-based, addressing the needs of a particular group of faculty, or topic-based with an approach that instead focuses on continuous learning on a specific issue.

Additional topic trends seen in the field include:

  1. Universal design for learning: A framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.
  2. Students as partners: Collaboration between students and faculty to improve teaching and learning
  3. Brain science/neuroscience of learning: Examination of biological processes involved with retention of knowledge, and the seeking to create the needed conditions in the classroom

Many faculty development centers include programs on instructional design and assessment. While these programs are often standalone departments with their own skilled professionals, changing administrative expectations for faculty have resulted in a need for further faculty education on these topics. More in-depth discussion on these topics is outside the scope of this article; however, they are important components of many faculty development programs, and are worth exploring more at a later date.

Why should librarians engage with faculty development?

Librarians benefit from an understanding of faculty affairs, specifically faculty development trends, as these trends impact both the expectations of faculty and students in regard to programming, teaching, and a host of related librarian responsibilities. While it is useful for librarians to speak the same language as faculty, it is more necessary for there to be a seamless level of support for students at an institution. Understanding and engaging in similar development strategies as teaching faculty can promote an environment where students know what to expect because the same terms and approaches are used. Additionally, research findings have indicated faculty development has a positive impact on student learning; [4] therefore, underscoring the importance of continued growth by everyone interacting with students.  

Librarians can incorporate faculty development trends in their continuing education programs and work with teaching centers as a way to augment library professional development offerings. Furthermore, the work of academic librarians is innately tied to the work of faculty in all disciplines, and their roles in the academy will undoubtedly be impacted by changing practices and attitudes within the classroom. By understanding these trends, librarians can be better prepared to meet the needs of the institution while improving their own approach to library services.

Learning about Faculty Development

Faculty development is often both an institutionally internal and an external endeavor. For those interested in learning more about current practices in faculty development, there are a number of resources available online from different organizations, in addition to Centers for Teaching and Learning hosted by specific institutions. Those groups include:

AAC&U: Association of American Colleges & Universities 

ACE: American Council on Education

ACUE: Association of College and University Educators

CAST: The Center for Applied Special Technology

Faculty Focus: “Higher education teaching strategies from Magna Publications”

ICED: International Consortium for Educational Development

Magna Publications: Higher education professional development

PODNetwork: Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education

TRACER: Tracing the Effect of Faculty Development into Student Learning Outcomes  

Quality Matters: Online course development program


Whether or not academic librarians hold faculty status, they benefit from understanding and engaging with current faculty development trends. By understanding the ongoing landscape, librarians can more easily build connections and participate in faculty development initiatives, expanding institutional roles and maintaining the library as a central part of the academic experience for both students and faculty. The goal of increased student learning and engagement is for all working in academia. 


[1] Amundsen, C., Abrami, P., McApline, L., Weston, C., Krbavac, M., Mundy, A., and Wilson, M. 2005. “The what and why of faculty development in higher education: An in-depth review of the literature.” AERA, 1.

[2] Hanover Research. 2014. “3 trends in higher education faculty development.” 

[3] Miami University. “What is a faculty learning community?” 

[4] Condon, W., Iverson, E. R., Manduca, C. A, Rutz, C., and Willett, Gudrun. 2016. Faculty development and student learning: Assessing the connections. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Recommended Reading

Condon, W., Iverson, E. R., Manduca, C. A, Rutz, C., and Willett, G. (2016). Faculty development and student learning: Assessing the connections. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. 

Haras, C. (2018). "Faculty development as an authentic professional practice." Higher Education Today.

Huston, T., & Weaver, C. L. (2008). "Peer coaching: Professional development for experienced faculty." Innovative Higher Education, 33(1), 5-20.