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Survey: Faculty Development Most Important Teaching and Learning Issue for 2019

group of faculty in team meeting

For the sixth year in a row, the topic of faculty development has turned up among the top three "teaching and learning issues" in an annual survey done by Educause. This year that same issue was also No. 1, getting 25 percent more votes than the next top choice: online and blended learning. As the survey explained, faculty development refers to the work of helping instructors produce active learning activities that will engage students and help them achieve learning objectives; online and blended learning refers to the creation of courses that will serve students both on campus and remotely.

The Educause Learning Initiative's Key Issues in Teaching and Learning survey solicits input from people in post-secondary teaching and learning whose schools may or may not be Educause members. This year's survey pulled in a record number of participants, drawing 1,449 separate survey responses.

Top 10 teaching and learning issues from the Educause Learning Initiative survey

  1. Faculty development and engagement
  2. Online and blended learning
  3. Instructional and learning experience design
  4. Digital and information literacy
  5. Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning
  6. Competency-based education and new methods of learning assessment
  7. Learning analytics
  8. Open education
  9. Evaluating instructional and learning innovations
  10. Academic transformation

Academic transformation, which ranked in the top spot last year, fell to position No. 10 this year. As Malcolm Brown, director of learning initiatives at Educause, suggested in an article about results, "more practical concerns and practices are at the forefront of the teaching and learning community for 2019, which likely accounts for this shift."

Competency-based education and new methods of assessing student learning is back in the top 10 ranking, jumping to position No. 6 for 2019 from number 16 last year, which Brown said could reflect its importance as a "vehicle of transformation," enabling learners to show their accomplishments longer after they've graduated.

In a breakdown on results by institutional type, faculty development also led the list for colleges primarily issuing associate's degrees, master's degrees, Ph.D.s, or those classified as "special focus." For those same schools the No. 2 issue was online and blended learning. Interestingly, institutions that emphasize bachelor's degrees placed "digital and information literacy" into the No. 1 position, followed by faculty development.

In spite of that anomaly, the results showed a "surprising level of agreement" across the different types of colleges and universities, Brown observed. "We have all encountered the tendency for us to think that institutional types are separate and unique and that what is on the minds of colleagues at, say, research institutions has very little overlap with the concerns of colleagues at two-year institutions," he noted. "I would suggest that the demographics of the key issues surveys rebuts this impression, at least to some extent. Indeed, in the three years we've been tracking demographic data, I've been surprised by the degree of congruence of these issues across institutional types. It suggests that we, as the teaching and learning community in higher education, have a lot more in common than we might initially think."

At the system office level, the results showed a slightly more strategic viewpoint. Academic transformation ranked first, followed by the issues of accessibility and universal design for learning.

student learning word cloud

In his article Brown shared a word cloud he created from additional comments offered by survey participants. The "loudest" words turned out to be "learning" and "student." That didn't surprise him. "The focus on learning reflects the community's priority on the academic success of our learners," he wrote. And learning "clearly overlaps with student success," he added. "While true student success depends on a range of factors and priorities, few would dispute the notion that academic success is most central to the student success equation."

The home base for the results is on the Educause website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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