We often think of faculty members as teachers. As facilitators of student learning, they hold certain philosophies about teaching and learning that shape their interactions in the classroom. However, faculty are also learners themselves, students of the practice of scholarship, teaching, service, and the many other duties that compose an academic life. I started this project to make the idea of faculty-as-learners more easily visible, since the ways we think about faculty-as-learners shape the ways we try to impact their practice. Making this thinking more visible may be of interest to faculty members, faculty development professionals, and adult learning researchers, as well as curious students looking to understand how their professors think.
In order to do this, we collect multiple intertwined narratives from several faculty members at the same institution. We then work with the faculty narrators to examine themselves as learners in the stories that they tell. The resulting dataset would be impossible to anonymize, so all transcripts are identified and open-licensed with the faculty narrator's consent. This begins a "commons" of open-licensed faculty stories that can be shared and used for learning in many unexpected ways down the line.
Theoretically, the project draws on the traditions of cognitive apprenticeship and narrative within engineering education research to explore poststructuralism as one possible perspective on faculty-as-learners. Poststructuralism is a paradigm that constantly seeks a "making-strange" and unsettling of habitual narratives. A poststructural view challenges us to remain in the discomfort of liminal (in-between) spaces where everything is constantly troubled and nothing ever really settles. This study demonstrates a concrete method for engaging faculty members in that liminal space. Through it, I anticipate contributing to our ability to articulate and value faculty explorations in chaotic territories such as large-scale curriculum redesigns, new program formation, and other places where valuable growth occurs but is rarely put into words.
This project began as my dissertation work for a PhD in Engineering Education, so its initial narrators are engineering and technology faculty from Berea College and Olin College, all talking about large-scale curricular (re)designs focused around design thinking. Once the initial work with Berea and Olin is completed, I hope to expand to other faculty members and institutions.
The current project icon is a creative-commons-licensed (CC-BY-2.0) photo by umjanedoan.