As we continue our conversation about faculty development, let’s recap.
I suggested five key capacities and competencies your faculty members should they possess in increasing measure: self-awareness, scholarly currency, interdisciplinary engagement, teaching and learning proficiency, and biblical/theological worldview integration. Having begun with a discussion of the importance of self-awareness, we now turn to what we might call subject matter awareness.
Knowledge has a shelf life. Faculty members should be encouraged and enabled to stay current with advances in knowledge and contours of scholarly dialogue within their disciplinary fields. A course syllabus that has remained unchanged for five years is a telltale sign that a colleague is coasting. Your periodic review of syllabi—more frequent for faculty members with poor instructional ratings—should include a check for evidence that faculty members are updating their resource and reading lists.
In your coaching conversations, you should inquire frequently what your faculty colleagues are learning in their fields. Such inquiry should also probe how conversant and engaged faculty are in current research and dialogue about contemporary and contextual issues, not only in the academic community but also in the contexts in which your present and future graduates will exercise ministry or marketplace leadership. When knowledge or skill deficits become apparent, you must allocate available time, connections, funding and other resources in order that disciplinary currency may be maintained.
Inter-disciplinary conversations and contributions
One of the endemic weaknesses of contemporary scholarship is the degree of sub-specialization most faculty members experience in their academic preparation. This is true in many fields, but it is increasingly pervasive in biblical and theological studies.
Academic silos serve neither you nor your students well. Compartmentalization is the enemy of ministry effectiveness. One rather urgent current example is the failure of Christian behavioral science experts to recognize the echoes of Gnosticism in the ontological categories and unchallenged scientific orthodoxies that underlie entrenched opposition to a biblical view of sexuality. Biblical and theological studies obsessed with the arcane are as dangerous as social science studies devoid of biblical and theological grounding and insight. And both appear increasingly rampant across Christian higher education’s faculty landscape.
No silos allowed
Your coaching should persistently probe and prompt your colleagues to be proactive in engaging in interdisciplinary conversation. Your graduates do not live their lives or exercise their ministries within the artificial categories represented by most of our curricula. You need relentlessly to coach your colleagues to reach and teach across the artificial divides of knowledge domains.
In my next post, I’ll address a fourth faculty development competency must: teaching and learning proficiency. Stay tuned!
Fresh gleanings to fuel your leadership awareness, reflection, and conversations …
In this tantalizing essay, author Susan Resneck Pierce refuses to dodge the truth that enrollment has been on a 5 year decline for the majority of private 4-year institutions. She urges that college boards, leadership teams, and faculty need to collaborate deeply in taking an unvarnished, data-driven approach to strategic planning. She offers a few examples of colleges who have found success doing just that. The article will likely incline you to grab a copy of her book, Governance Reconsidered: How Boards, Presidents, Senior Administrators, and Faculty Can Help Their Institutions Thrive.
Thanks to my friend, ABHE Senior Fellow Gary Stratton, for sharing Rebecca Reynolds’ reflections on the state of American evangelical political pandering via his Two-Handed Warriors blog. I must say I share Rebecca’s shame and consternation.