Reflections From a Fellow: A Look Back on My Faculty Guild Fellowship

Dr. Niki Bray is a faculty member and instructional designer at the University of Memphis. She received the 2018 Bruce Chaloux Scholarship for Early Career Excellence given by the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) and was a WCET Adaptive Learning Fellow from October 2015 to October 2016. She has also participated as a Faculty Guild fellow.

Teaching, and Reflecting, Can Be Lonely 

It is gratifying to reflect upon my classes each week and think about how far my students have come, how far they still have to go and my plan to get them there. I ponder each week if that plan is still the best for this group of students based upon their performance to date or if it needs tweaking. 

I enjoy taking the time—like a few hours to a half day each week—thoroughly analyzing the performance data of my students. I want to know how they are doing and where they are struggling. It is through this analysis that I can identify when I need to slow down and revisit a concept or when it’s time to speed up. This feels empowering and responsible—like I am doing my job well and not wasting my students’ time and being one of “those” professors. 

Teaching, and reflecting on teaching, is rewarding. It is also challenging and often lonely.

Finding a Community With a Shared Purpose

During my Faculty Guild fellowship, I looked forward to meeting each week with other faculty from across the country, at different levels and types of institutions, who care about students the way I do. We would share, talk and engage in online discussions about what worked and what didn’t work in our recent lessons. The opportunity to get input from colleagues about what they might have done if they were me and in my situation was deeply encouraging, uplifting and thought-provoking. To have those same colleagues praise my work and plan to implement my instructional strategies into their practice was humbling and edifying. 

When teaching is your focus, as it is for me, and research is nice but not required, it can be hard to find fellow faculty who have the time to engage in deep conversations about things related directly to learning and pedagogy (andragogy). A Faculty Guild fellowship provides an extended professional development opportunity that gives the needed space for continued growth and development. And, it provides an unexpected opportunity to further expand your professional learning network beyond the fellowship.

Providing Space, and Structure, to Reflect

The Faculty Guild fellowship gave me a formal structure with which to further analyze my own teaching. It was interesting to realize the metacognitive processes I found myself going through just trying to decide what to share each week with the other fellows (I’m a bit geeky that way—I get excited thinking about my own thinking!). 

I relish in the work it takes to be a good teacher. We all know, however, with the rush and pressures placed upon faculty (at every level) it seems that there is never time to enjoy these moments anymore. The Faculty Guild fellowship provides this space—carves out time each week for teaching—so learning can take place. The fellowship provided me the opportunity to be present with teaching again—to be in the moment—versus my usual rush to the never-ending task list. 

Filling the Gap in Professional Development

A Faculty Guild fellowship fills the gap that most institutions just do not have the resources or knowledge to fill when it comes to deeply meeting the diverse needs of faculty on an ongoing basis across multiple semesters. Uniquely, Faculty Guild allows for professional development with colleagues at institutions from every level and is designed to guide faculty through a reflective process while also growing their knowledge around pedagogical concepts and best practices. Their use of appreciative inquiry, which is grounded in exhaustive empirical research, impacts the affective state and growth of each fellow, often unbeknownst to the fellow. 

I look forward to growing the professional relationships that have formed as a result of my fellowship and opportunities to stay connected with Faculty Guild as they continue to work diligently to meet the ever-changing needs of an expanding and diverse faculty.