Why teacher upskilling is the need of the hour

It is imperative to provide faculty with opportunities to upgrade their skills to meet current expectations.   | Photo Credit: Freepik

A mid-career Computer Science faculty at a university recently spoke of the intriguing new jargon she was hearing. They were all related to cybersecurity and blockchain technology but were not limited to these areas and were quite widespread in other fields. There was no escaping them and she began to feel the need the upgrade her knowledge. She is not alone.

The main idea behind Faculty Development Programmes (FDPs) across the world is “upskill”. The curricula of various programmes at many universities are updated to keep pace with the changing demands of the industry. Students too join the courses with expectations of learning the latest curriculum. While younger faculty who have graduated more recently may be better skilled, the experienced ones are the backbone of the teaching-learning environment and academic administration at the universities. Hence, it becomes imperative to provide them with opportunities to upgrade their skills to meet the current expectations.

There are many ways for faculty to upskill themselves: attending conferences and training programmes, getting involved in research projects, earning online certification through various MOOC portals and by through relevant FDPs. Well-planned and curated FDPs are an investment in human resources, and ultimately result in enhanced teaching and learning experience. In Faculty Development and Student Learning: Assessing the Connections, the authors discuss the findings of the Tracer Project, which was designed to assess how FDPs impact student learning. The results clearly showed that when faculty attended formal development opportunities, engaged in self-directed improvement processes, or even underwent routine evaluations, their practices changed considerably.

Learner-centred teaching

With the orientation of the student body changing from theoretical to experiential learning, faculty development needs to focus on creating and emphasising learner-centred teaching. The teachers’ role shifts from only lecturing to involving students in discussions, taking regular feedback and improvising. This shift received further impetus with the COVID-19 pandemic which pushed teaching online and involved considerable use of technology. It also required an upgradation of skills, especially for those faculty who were not tech-savvy.

Since an ever-evolving strategy, content, and planning is required to conduct FDPs in institutions, the following approach may offer some tips: Identify the upcoming changes in the curriculum/instructions and the role of faculty; Identify the goals for learning and competencies including self-learning and teamwork; Plan activities and sessions to fulfill the goals ensuring a proper mix for different faculty and programmes. Include topics on mental and emotional health; Identify and map resources to deliver the content; Take and incorporate continuous feedback.

With the world coming closer especially during the pandemic and governments allowing cross-border collaborations, students need newer and global ways of exploration and growth. Each member of the faculty must become a learner before he/she becomes a teacher. It is a two-way process. To maximise the ability of faculty to teach and students to learn and to nurture a productive culture, faculty development should lie at the heart of any higher education institution.

The writer is Co-lead, Faculty Development Programme, and Dy. Dean Academics, The NorthCap University, Gurugram

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2022 4:37:10 PM |

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