Allison BrckaLorenz, Ph.D. is the director of the College + University Teaching Environments, project manager for the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement, and a research analyst for the National Survey of Student Engagement. In her work at the Center for Postsecondary Research, she helps people use data to make improvements on their campuses, uses data to highlight the experiences of traditionally marginalized subpopulations, and provides professional development opportunities and mentoring to graduate students. Her research interests focus on the teaching and learning of college students and the accompanying issues faced by faculty, the socialization of graduate students, and the experiences of small and understudied populations.
Motivating Teaching Excellence and Supporting Diverse Faculty
Despite its potential as a place for transformative change, inequities and discrimination are built into the systems and structures of higher education. Whether it is the growing vulnerability of contingent faculty, managing cultural taxation for faculty of color, or facing gender bias in course evaluations, there are systemic issues that prevent faculty from doing their best work as educators. Environmental or diversity studies are often done locally or in response to a specific issue, obscuring what we know about these issues as a field.
A better understanding of faculty needs for teaching can help institutions and the field of higher education dismantle these systems that prevent or demotivate faculty from delivering high-quality education. I hope my new project, the College + University Teaching Environments model, can help with that. Guided by the literature on faculty climates and cultures, this model covers five key aspects that contribute to a positive and motivational teaching environment: faculty perceptions of institutional support for diversity, teaching processes and policies, teaching values and support from colleagues, access to teaching resources, and feelings of respect, belonging, and motivation.
In the fall 2021 semester, we will survey faculty and other instructional staff across the country to assist institutions in finding actionable ways to improve faculty teaching environments. The data can also identify groups of faculty who may be experiencing inequitable treatment. In the 2020 pilot, faculty responded to the survey as they prepared for teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. This data gave institutions opportunities to better support their faculty in uncertain times. Ultimately, I hope that this project helps institutions support their faculty in ways they may not have thought of before, both as educators and as human beings.