3 Trends in Higher Education Faculty Development

In our higher education monthly newsletter back in July, we fielded a survey asking readers what topics they wanted to learn more about. This month’s snapshot into the current state of faculty affairs was a suggestion courtesy of a Provost/VP for Academic and Student Affairs at a large southern university. 

3 Trends in Higher Education Faculty Development

The higher education industry has undergone substantial change in the last several decades. Faculty members serve as drivers of these changes when implementing new educational tactics, programs, and policies. However, while teaching staff translate new innovations to impact student outcomes, those in leadership functions must strive to ensure faculty policies and practices establish the employee support structures needed to achieve these goals.

While faculty at most postsecondary institutions arrive as experts in their respective disciplines, few have had substantive and formative experiences in the instructional techniques that contribute to quality teaching and learning. Historically, the assumption at colleges and universities has been that faculty members will self‐educate, honing their teaching skills and incorporating new pedagogical techniques individually and with limited external support. The changing landscape of higher education – with an increasingly diverse student body, growing workforce demand for highly‐qualified graduates, and the unprecedentedly rapid advancement of knowledge and understanding – have led postsecondary institutions to bolster the number and scope of professional development opportunities available to faculty.

Below, we outline faculty development trends evident across the nation’s higher education landscape. These insights were picked from the report Best Practices in Faculty Development, located in our Education Library – an online repository of over 1,800 reports available to Hanover partners. Learn more about the education library, and other benefits of Hanover’s partnership model, by completing the form below.


1. Development is going digital.

Many U.S.‐postsecondary institutions are increasing the breadth and scope of faculty development programs, particularly as they relate to teaching and learning. Changing student‐body demographics, increasing prevalence of technology, and the demand for more‐skilled graduates have led to institutions to invest in training faculty in pedagogical techniques, educational software platforms, and innovative content delivery mechanisms.

In response to the growth of online education, faculty development programs at postsecondary institutions are increasingly focused on training and supporting professors in the use of educational technology. Many colleges and universities provide technology training as a centralized service, often incorporated into larger faculty development initiatives. Universities are also widely employing “technology natives,” often students, to support faculty in the implementation of technological platforms.

2. Mentorship should cast a wide net.

The ideology underlying faculty mentoring programs at many colleges and universities has shifted from one of unidirectional transfer of institutional and professional knowledge to one of greater reciprocity. Contemporary mentoring programs often emphasize the mutual benefits for professors at all academic ranks, and are increasingly turning toward a “mentoring network” structure, rather than the single mentor‐mentee relationship.

3.Support is needed at every level.

Though primarily employed for junior faculty members, the current body of literature suggests that mentoring programs are also likely to be beneficial for midcareer faculty – as experienced faculty members are more likely to have more sophisticated and nuanced questions related to teaching and learning, but may be hesitant to raise these questions in a workshop setting

Programs for mid‐career faculty are often seen as akin to coaching, rather than mentoring, and frequently involve the pairing of faculty at the same career level. These reciprocal relationships are an effective means of developing more intricate solutions to complex problems and can be instrumental in helping recently‐tenured faculty establish a foothold within their university.


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