- Faculty Development in the Age of Evidence: Current Practices, Future Imperatives by Andrea L. Beach etal
Faculty Development in the Age of Evidence: Current Practices, Future Imperatives is a follow-up study to the Sorcinelli, Austin, Eddy, and Beach (2006) study, Creating the Future of Faculty Development: Learning From the Past, Understanding the Present. Both of these collective efforts look at faculty development, with the 2016 study "tracking the latest developments in the field and identifying new and emerging priorities and practices" (p. 1), denoting shifts in the demographics of faculty as well as the needs and priorities of North American higher educational institutions over the decade since the first study.
Two of the co-authors (Beach and Austin) are higher education professors in Michigan (Beach at Western Michigan and Austin at Michigan State) at time of publication. Sorcinelli is in research (with the Association of American Universities' Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative and senior fellow at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst). Rivard is a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota.
All four co-authors have some connection to faculty development offices or centers, whether as administrators, founders, or as graduate assistants at their current or previous institutions. The authors' extensive experience specifically within centers for faculty development and centers for research is a unique asset of this book. They could relate to the data in the reflections and ask the critical questions in a manner to generate richer data from their survey respondents. The initial survey could be scaled-up and customized based on two of the authors' experiences with the first study.
Too often the literature in the field is from the faculty perspective or only focuses on faculty development within one academic division or institution. This collaborative compilation provides an active and extensive cross-section of the present and near future of faculty development within North American higher education, through meticulous data collection from faculty developers at many institutions and direct observations of the key trends/movements within faculty development centers across North America. That addition is what makes this book a unique contribution to the faculty development research available to professionals in the field. This approach is also helpful for current faculty with thoughts of a transition into faculty development or advanced graduate students thinking that they would want to cross-train or become employed as faculty developers in the future, as the book gives a holistic picture of what this line of work currently involves and what is in its horizons across North America.
The data collected for the 2016 book is discussed thematically across the first seven of eight chapters and comparatively alongside the data from the 2006 study (ultimately, Chapter 8 is largely left for bringing the second data set and findings into the context of "where do we go from here?" so it mostly leaves out discussion of the 2006 data). This overall comparative approach makes sense given both the augmentation of the previous study (so readers have the historical context and framework as they are learning about the 2016 study and data) and the fact that several of the co-authors are the same for both 2006 and 2016 writings, so they are sharing their first-hand reflections, shaped by these two data collections spaced a decade apart. [End Page E-1]
Beach, Sorcinelli, Austin, and Rivard explain their approach quite well in the opening pages of the text, when they write:
This current study explores anew many of the questions posed in the first study and adds others influenced by developments occurring in and outside higher education. This study resurveyed faculty developers on perceived priorities for the field as well as practices and services offered. It examined more deeply than the earlier study the organization of faculty development, including characteristics (e.g., educational background, disciplinary affiliation, experience) of directors; operating budgets and staffing levels of centers; and patterns of collaboration, reorganization, and consolidation … focused on what faculty developers...