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Building Community for Teaching Faculty

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Focus on Faculty Development

Tagged Division

Continuing Professional Development

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Paper Authors


Laura D. Hahn University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Laura Hahn is Director of the Academy for Excellence in Engineering Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is also an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Her interests include communities of practice, classroom discourse, and intercultural communication for engineers.

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Cinda Heeren

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Dr. Cinda Heeren is an award-winning Senior Lecturer at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She teaches CS225, Data Structures and Programming Principles, to hundreds of enthusiastic and talented undergraduates every year. She is always game to try new pedagogical innovations, and she loves telling young women about her affection for computing.

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At large, research-intensive universities, hiring specialized teaching faculty to teach their sizable populations of undergraduate students has become increasingly common. However, these instructors are often on the fray of the fabric of their departments, disconnected from conversations, committees, and decisions that have traditionally been in the realm of tenure-track faculty. In response to such concerns, our engineering college recently established a Teaching Professionals Program (TPro2) for its specialized teaching faculty. This paper reports on the inception of the program, its goals, and its outcomes to date. We also provide advice for others interested in developing such a program at their own institution.

Inception: TPro2 emerged through conversations between a Senior Lecturer in computer science and a member of the college office for instruction about the lack of institutional support for specialized teaching faculty. These conversations happened in the midst of campus initiatives to more clearly delineate the roles, titles, and promotion procedures for this growing population of instructors. The college, through the office for instruction, saw an opportunity to support this community by providing a small amount of funding for its administration.

Goals: TPro2 works to build community and formalize the career objectives of the participants by hosting meetings that provide professional development, facilitate sharing of ideas, and allow general discussion. All specialized teaching faculty are welcome to participate. We want to reinforce this community of practice by: • Providing luncheons for sharing of ideas and experiences. • Sharing and implementing a framework for professional development via structured reflective practice. • Building centralized access to documents, communication, and planning. Example documents such as job descriptions, and departmental policies affecting teaching faculty will be gathered and stored in a jointly accessible location. • Creating a teaching calendar to facilitate simple visits to our colleagues’ classrooms, allowing for an organic flow of best practices among peers.

Outcomes: Approximately 40% of our specialized teaching faculty participate in TPro2. It functions as a community of practice, in which participants share problems, ideas, and resources in order to increase competence and satisfaction in their work. Participants report that TPro2 is valuable to their professional development. They have also developed new networks and joint teaching and research projects.

Advice: In our context, we have found a bottom-up, organic grass roots approach to be effective. We suggest laying the groundwork with those likely to participate, and listening carefully to their aspirations and concerns. Providing lunches reinforces the college’s commitment to and appreciation of these instructors. Frequent reporting to college administration helps the program gain visibility and traction.

Hahn, L. D., & Heeren, C. (2016, June), Building Community for Teaching Faculty Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26407

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