Alignment is simple “bus” logic

Leaders align people and resources for the optimal achievement of mission. As Jim Collins puts it, they get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats on the bus [Good to Great].

In terms of educational mission achievement (notice I did not say institutional sustainability), there is no more consequential alignment priority than your faculty. Alignment begins—but by no means ends—with rigorous selection criteria and processes. It continues through the commitment to ongoing faculty development delivered in a manner that resembles coaching more than training.

Having previously considered coaching as the manner in which we engage in faculty development, what then are some key means by which we can foster faculty development? There are many, but I have chosen two to get you started: think in terms of inquiry and investment.

Prefer inquiry over instruction

Not only does coaching differ from training in terms of its orientation to the individual over that of the institution, but also coaching differs from training in terms of the primary mode in which it is conducted. We train by instructing, but we coach by inquiring.

Coaching is more about asking questions than giving answers. We pursue coaching not by poking and prodding, dictating and directing, but by suggesting and supporting, resourcing and reflecting. Coaching takes the form of conversation rather than command. Probing questions can allow fruitful reflection upon and clarification of obstacles, fears, questions, and aspirations. Skillfully framed questions are more likely to produce self-motivation and follow through than directives, no matter how meritorious or specific. For this reason, coaching should flow from the practice of assessment.

Assessment should foster inquiry, not inquisition

Threatened by what they fear may be unqualified or unfair scrutiny, faculty members frequently seek to avoid assessment and to discredit or dismiss its findings. While there are undoubtedly inappropriate reasons for faculty members to resist assessment, it is also possible that some resistance is justified.

Too often, faculty evaluation consists exclusively of instructional evaluation, limited in many cases to evaluation by students. You should make it clear that instructional effectiveness is only one of several dimensions of faculty excellence. And you should explicitly include faculty members’ growth in scholarly competence and professional contributions as one such dimension. In my own experience, I have insisted on comprehensive faculty evaluation that includes the following six dimensions:

  • Modeling Christ-like living and service
  • Excellence in instruction
  • Effective academic and career advising
  • Fostering formative student relationships
  • Professional development and scholarly contributions
  • Institutional compatibility and contribution

Ideally, for each of the above performance variables, there should be multiple inputs—including each faculty member’s self-assessment.

Don’t deny it, you’re judging people

Without a doubt, your inquiry-coaching by means of evaluation inescapably includes your personal observations and judgment. Make no pretense or apology about that reality. At the same time, when faculty evaluation fails to require or credit rigorous self-evaluation, do not be surprised if both its perception and product are diminished.

Invite faculty members to judge themselves

You doubtless recognize the benefit of self-evaluation as a means of shaping a faculty member’s personal awareness of and commitment to a growth and improvement agenda. You will encourage this effect when you make it clear to your colleagues, in writing, and in practice, that the purpose of faculty evaluation is primarily formative (i.e., for the purpose of improvement and growth) rather than summative (i.e., for purposes of promotion, retention, status).

Inquiry and …

Indeed, effective faculty development involves systematic inquiry. It also involves serious investment. I’ll talk about that next time.


Fresh gleanings to fuel your leadership awareness, reflection, and conversations …

Bridging the Gap: Philip Yancey’s Post-Election Perspective

John the Revelator saw in the Roman Empire the admixture of absolute power with pseudo-religious legitimization. He prophesied a future in which an even more seductive and sinister rival to King Jesus would egregiously abuse power while a mysterious “false prophet” would assure gullible subjects of the usurper’s sanctity. Are we living in the envisioned ultimate eschatological period, or is our time simply one more of many that prefigure the end? I have no definitive insight. But I know that believers are called in our day, just as in John’s, to steadfastness that subverts the prevailing God-defying confederacy through overcoming love that bears sacrificial witness to the Good News. I’m with Philip Yancey on this and, more importantly, I trust—with Jesus.

Canada’s Call to Pursue Inclusive Secularism

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is supporting an interfaith effort to commend “inclusive secularism” that works to ensure diverse perspectives and practices are welcomed and affirmed in the public square. The effort, labeled Building Our Whole Society, identifies the predominance of “exclusive secularism” as an ethos that has marginalized some Canadians with highest potential to contribute to a flourishing society. The concept paper, “Building Our Whole Society: Religion and Citizenship at Canada’s 150th” seems to me a worthwhile read for all and a worthwhile summons for our Canadian brothers and sisters.