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Is Off-Campus Teaching Transformative for Faculty?

Published: April 13, 2017

Is Off-Campus Teaching Transformative for Faculty?

Knox College professor Weihong Du leading students on the ACM Shanghai: Perspectives on Contemporary China program.

“Transformative” is a word often used to describe the impact that study away can have on college students.

What about the faculty who lead the programs and teach their students away from the home campus? How does the experience impact their teaching and research after they return? And what is the role of their institution in preparing them for the experience and supporting them when they are back on campus?

Those are some of the questions being addressed by a research project that was highlighted in a presentation at the 2017 conference of the Forum on Education Abroad in Seattle on March 29-30.

“We’ve seen a tremendous interest in the topic, which validates our own sense of the need for data on the impact on faculty of leading these programs,” said Joan Gillespie, ACM Vice President and Director of Off-Campus Study Programs. “Past research has focused on the impact on students.”

From the initial research findings:

In their pedagogy, faculty describe their willingness to turn more responsibility over to students for their learning, based on experiential learning at the program site.


The conference session, “Faculty as Global Learners: Enhancing the Transformative Impact of Leading Off-Campus Programs,” was presented by Gillespie and two of her colleagues in the research project — Dana Gross, Associate Dean and Professor of Psychology at St. Olaf College, and Prudence Layne, Associate Professor of English at Elon University. The other members of the research cohort are Sarah Glasco, Associate Professor of French at Elon, and Lisa Jasinski, Special Assistant to the Provost at Trinity University.

An estimated 120 people attended the session, which began with an overview of the project’s initial research findings. There were also round-table discussions on the role of faculty members’ global learning in supporting students’ global learning, institutional practices and strategies to prepare faculty to lead off-campus programs, and debriefing and supporting faculty leaders when they return to campus.

One highlight of the initial findings on the impact on teaching is that faculty expand their support for student research, another high impact practice, either by including students in faculty-driven research or mentoring students in a summer research project related to the study abroad/study away program.

Faculty also report a new focus on interdisciplinary work and global issues in developing a new course or course material. In their pedagogy, faculty describe their willingness to turn more responsibility over to students for their learning, based on experiential learning at the program site.

Preliminary findings discussed at the session were based on data from the ACM consortial programs and January-term and term-length programs sponsored by some of the ACM member colleges. Overall, the research group has collected data from 223 faculty respondents who had led short-term or term-length programs at 28 institutions, including the ACM, the Associated Colleges of the South, and Elon University.

Two surveys were administered for the project. The first collected demographics, institutional support, preparation, and outcomes on teaching, research, service, and personal/professional lives. The follow-up survey with 72 faculty consisted of eight open-ended questions on topics that included global learning, critical incidents, and high-impact practices.

“Some of these responses are 300 to 500 words long, and respondents were eager to share both positive and negative experiences,” said Gillespie. “We have a tremendous amount of data to work with as we begin to articulate policy recommendations to institutions to maximize their support for faculty and, in turn, the benefits of these experiences for student learning.”

This was the fourth conference presentation by members of the research group since January. The multi-institutional research is sponsored by Elon University Center for Engaged Learning Seminar on High-Impact Global Education. Work-in-progress will be presented at the Symposium on Integrating Global Learning with the University Experience on June 11-12, 2017 at Elon University.




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