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Faculty Development: Models for Health-Professional Schools

The Need for Faculty Development in Pre-service Training Institutions

Whether in well-resourced or resource-limited settings, faculty are at the heart of quality teaching. fac-devCapable faculty prepare students to deliver high-quality care and treatment services and can inspire and nurture students toward mastery and personal growth. I-TECH’s faculty-development activities contribute to its overall mission to build a skilled health care workforce and well-organized national health care systems by strengthening educational institutions and faculty in the critical role of training their countries’ future health care workers.

Health-professional schools in resource-limited settings often face numerous constraints. They may be underfunded; lack resources for salaries, infrastructure, media, and equipment; or have outdated, non-standardized curricula. Faculty are often under-trained in educational techniques and/or not up to date on current care and treatment guidelines and protocols. In many settings where I-TECH works, faculty face challenges such as:

  • Limited training and/or experience in curriculum design, lesson planning, and/or student performance evaluation.
  • Limited training in the skills necessary for excellence in teaching beyond an advanced degree or specialization in a clinical content area.
  • Conflicting time demands in balancing teaching and other faculty responsibilities with clinical practice.
  • Non-existent, out-of-date, or very general curricula/ syllabi.
  • Lack of up-to-date teaching materials, textbooks, references, or other resources.
  • Lack of experience in defining basic knowledge and/or competencies required by students.
  • Poor remuneration and a lack of opportunities for advancement.
  • Limited access to computers, projectors, electricity, and other material resources that support a classroom environment that is conducive to teaching and learning.
  • High student-to-faculty ratios.

In this context, strengthening the capacity of faculty to be better educators is crucial to helping them succeed as facilitators of effective and efficient learning, to meet accreditation requirements, to ensure ongoing quality improvement of educational programs, and, most importantly, for ensuring that students are adequately prepared to address contemporary health and patient-care issues.

This is a set of competencies for faculty that I-TECH believes are necessary for a health care worker–training institution to deliver educational programs that prepare health care workers to provide quality prevention, care, and treatment services.

I-TECH Core Competencies for Health-Professional School Faculty

Core competency 1: Designs courses
Subcompetencies:

  1. Bases course design and implementation decisions on educational theory and research, and awareness of wider educational program and accreditation standards
  2. Uses a course design process that includes:assessing needs; writing learning objectives; mapping objectives to specific competencies; identifying teaching, learning, and resource materials; designing learning activities based on the knowledge-, skill-, and attitudinal-learning objectives to be achieved; organizing and sequencing content and activities in a course; developing evaluation strategies
  3. Develops a syllabus that clearly communicates expectations for students

Core competency 2: Facilitates learning
Subcompetencies:

  1. Develops lesson plans from curriculum and/or syllabus
  2. Manages the classroom using clear rules and norms
  3. Establishes a nonjudgmental, supportive learning environment
  4. Uses a variety of teaching methods and strategies appropriate to learners’ needs, curriculum objectives, content, and context
  5. Appropriately uses audiovisual or information technologies when available to support the teaching process
  6. Asks questions that promote learning (e.g., clarification questions, probes, Socratic questions, reflective questions)
  7. Creates opportunities for learners to develop critical thinking and reasoning skills
  8. Stimulates independent learning
  9. Provides timely, constructive, and thoughtful feedback to learners
  10. Demonstrates awareness of gender and cultural influences on teaching and learning
  11. Demonstrates enthusiasm for teaching, learning, and the health profession that inspires and motivates students
  12. Advocates for students’ needs within the administration

Core competency 3: Uses assessment and evaluation strategies
Subcompetencies:

  1. Designs and uses tools for assessing and evaluating student learning in the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective domains
  2. Uses assessment and evaluation data to enhance the teaching-learning process

Core competency 4: Maintains professional expertise
Subcompetencies

  1. Maintains the professional knowledge base and clinical skills needed to help learners prepare for contemporary practice (content expertise)
  2. Engages in self-reflection and continued learning to improve teaching practices
  3. Balances the teaching, scholarship, and service demands inherent in the role of educator, clinician, and member of an academic institution

Faculty-Development Programs

A comprehensive approach to faculty development typically involves multiple activities—from faculty involvement in the revision of a school’s curriculum for its health-professional students, to skills-building workshops in teaching methods, to strengthening the design and delivery of clinical teaching. Institutional change in pre-service curricula and the role of faculty cannot occur without broad involvement and buy-in from key stakeholders. Advocacy and coordinated planning with partners, relevant ministries, and health-professional training institutions is, therefore, critical to I-TECH’s faculty-development work.

I-TECH is doing faculty development in:

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Future Directions for I-TECH’s Faculty-Development Assistance

As I-TECH’s work in pre-service grows, it is continuing to refine and expand its approach to faculty development. New areas of focus include:

  • Academic twinning as a sustained approach to faculty development—building long-term relation- ships between faculty at “twinned” institutions in the United States and resource-limited settings.
  • Strengthening faculty members’ clinical teach- ing skills—applying I-TECH’s experience in clinical mentoring to the pre-service context and including clinical preceptors in faculty-development activities.
  • Expanding the scope of I-TECH’s efforts beyond faculty in clinical training programs—reaching out to allied health professions, including laboratory science and public health, and addressing faculty- development issues unique to these cadres (e.g., developing skills in research methods with a focus on publication, and supporting student theses for public health faculty).

The table below presents a summary of future faculty-development activities that will be undertaken in the I-TECH network. Note that pre-service initiatives are often multiyear, as they involve revision of multiyear curricula; therefore, corresponding faculty-development activities can span several years as well.

Future Faculty-Development Activities, by Competency

Competency 1: Designs curriculum

  • Training working groups involved in revising or adapting curricula in instructional design
  • Building faculty capacity to ensure that learning objectives are integrated across classroom and clinical settings

Competency 2: Facilitates learning

  • Facilitating discussions on best practices in teaching using faculty-teaching diaries
  • Facilitating discussions between classroom and clinical instructors in linking theoretical knowledge to student practica

Competency 3: Uses assessment and evaluation strategies

  • Mentoring visits to support the development and use of diverse student evaluation strategies
  • Facilitating exchanges between classroom faculty and clinical faculty on diverse health topics
  • Training in the use of electronic-resource libraries to remain up to date and to improve teaching
  • Supporting faculty to mobilize resources for multimedia teaching tools and to maintain these tools so they remain available to faculty over time

Pre-service education is vital to ensuring an adequate and well-trained health care workforce. Skilled, confident, and effective pre-service faculty provide the foundation for developing and sustaining skilled health care workers in decades to come.

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