Faculty development

Faculty development

Towards the end of an academic year, teaching staff are arranging with their principal or academic dean a time for their appraisal/encouragement interview. When it comes, the interview and the resultant development plan is usually far too narrow and often not based on good theological education theory.

Generally, faculty development is discussed mostly within the academic area of the job but this goes against what is surely incontrovertible; that the development we want to see in our students should be the development we strive for as a faculty member. Why it is called development when we talk about teachers and formation when we talk about students is a mystery but the greatest power to form students comes from teachers who are formed in the same way and act as living examples. My argument is simply that we should be linking more closely what we want for our students and what we want for our teachers.

Staff development therefore is all about progression in the four main areas we often talk about with our students regarding their formation; academics, spirituality/character formation, ministry, and contribution to the community (being a loving, peaceful, vital member of the team) – along with one life which integrates them all.

In our appraisals, the academic area is often well covered with discussion of student feedback, how they consider the teaching has gone that year, future academic plans, publications, personal, assessment of where they are and where they are going academically, conferences, sabbaticals and so on.

The spiritual/character side is rarely mentioned except encouraging teachers to attend chapel if necessary. It is not easy to talk to staff about their spiritual lives, but a pastorally caring leader will do so and gently encourage growth. Retreats, literature, prayer, spiritual disciplines can all be mentioned. Feeling inadequate, angers, anxieties and other problems can sometimes have spiritual roots and so can be helped by spiritual attitude changes.

Ministry wise, Professional development in the theory and practice of teaching and learning is important; the development of a sense of call to the ministry of teaching in theological education also. The teacher can also develop in how he or she sees their job as fundamentally ministry to the students and the church as a whole. James’ saying that not many of us should be teachers because we will be judged with greater strictness could also be discussed (James 3v1) and how that affects us, teaching in the presence of God.

And loving engagement with others in the community is surely important as an issue for the conversation. How does the teacher’s sense of calling match the sense of calling of the seminary or college? How has the teacher shown love and encouragement to other staff? How has the teacher contributed to the example the staff set the students, of working together in harmony for the kingdom?

It is not an easy task being a teacher in theological education and much of an appraisal interview should be encouraging and positive, full of thanks and appreciation. The necessary task of modelling the sort of formation we want for the students is an especially hard ask; but I do not see how we can ask for less.

Or talk about less in a realistic appraisal interview.

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2 Comments on “Faculty development”

  1. Scott Cunningham Says:

    Why not call it “faculty formation” instead of “faculty development”? This would emphasize your point, Graham, that it is really serves the same aim as our process with students – the formation of the entire person for the vocation and calling for that person. BTW, I think that the “end of year” interview is WAY overweighted. Formation is a process which needs to be engaged in much more frequently than once a year. We want it to be continuous rather than summative.

  2. KiwiAllan Says:

    Well said, Graham! I get the impression (from my experience, but that’s mainly in Asia) that we as ‘theological education professionals’ are good at expounding the theory about spiritual – indeed holistic – formation, but feel awkward opening ourselves us to give/receive it from colleagues/peers. Thus the effectiveness of the appraisals will be heightened as through the whole year faculty are intentionally encouraged to express and experience this strategic “one another” dynamic.…and it needs to be endorsed and modelled from the top.


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