Strengthening faculty development in medical education through action research
D'Eon, Marcel F.
An original framework for thinking about faculty development was designed and presented. The first of the four components was the premise that teaching be thought of as a social practice (Overgaard, 1994) which naturally led to implications for how to improve the professional practice of teaching. This innovative concept was very helpful in conceptualizing faculty development and finding practical ways to improve its practice. The second component was a performance orientation to continuing education (Nowlen, 1988) which expanded the horizon of factors influencing performance to include personal and cultural ones. Another component was characteristics of successful programs, especially the needs assessment (Bland, 1980) and other practical elements. The fourth component consisted of the social and organizational supports for teaching (Seldin, 1990; Weimer, 1990) including small groups of teachers examining their practice together (Guskey, 1995) and faculty leaders working to change the organization (Green, 1994). This framework was used to critique and to guide the design and implementation of faculty development programs which emanated from this study. An action research methodology was used because of its dual role of adding to the stock of knowledge about a field of inquiry and providing benefit to a specific client group (Aguinus, 1993). Kurt Lewin's traditional action research cycle (Stone, 1980) was modified in two significant ways. First, instead of beginning with planning and acting stages, the model proposed in this study started with observing and reflecting stages. Second, action research was successfully integrated both practically and conceptually with program evaluation studies. This research was conducted at the College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan where the Dean of Medicine had made faculty development a priority and had allocated resources accordingly. Several initiatives to enhance teaching and learning had been introduced prior to beginning this study including a system for the evaluation of teaching and a three-day intensive workshop on teaching. Prior to this study beginning, faculty leaders at this site were making progress in the area of faculty development. This study spawned several important activities over and above those already in existence at the College. A crucial evaluation of a key faculty development program (Teaching Improvement Project Systems-TIPS) at the College was completed. This had a large impact at the College and was a Canadian first. A needs assessment survey, administered to all full-time faculty, select part-time faculty, and medical students, collected information about both faculty preferences for teaching development sessions and organizational supports and impediments to effective teaching. The information collected has generated many interesting hypotheses particularly related to the motivation of faculty for teaching and pointed the way to further needed research and practical recommendations for action. A faculty development program was designed, implemented, and evaluated, and then offered again. Workshops for faculty leaders were offered to raise awareness of educational issues and to contribute to the creation and maintenance of an organizational environment which supports and encourages the deliberate and systematic quest for instructional quality (Weimer, 1990). Instructional study groups were begun to help develop a network of faculty interested in and supportive of teaching. Initiatives in the area of organizational and social supports for teaching were especially innovative. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)