Early on in my training as an educational developer, a mentor introduced me to a simple yet profound model of instructor development, based on one developed by Laurie Richlin (1995). I want to thank my mentor and colleagues at the UC Davis Center for Educational Effectiveness for introducing me to this framework.
This model breaks instructor development into three stages.
Stage 1 – Personal Credibility and Control: At an early stage in an instructor’s development, they may be primarily concerned with establishing their authority and credibility in the classroom, wondering “will the students like me and find me to be engaging?” or “am I qualified to teach this topic?” Developing skills in classroom management, answering student questions, and effectively communication with students may be goals for instructors at this stage.
Stage 2 – Content Delivery: Instructors at this intermediate stage are focused on effective delivery of content, and may be concerned with their presentation style, efficiency in preparing for their classes, and effectively using technology. These instructors may be comfortable in the classroom, but still developing their skills in assessing student learning.
Stage 3 – Facilitation of Learning: Instructors at the most advanced stage of the cycle are transitioning from an instructor-centered to a student-centered perspective, and tend to be focused on understanding their students’ needs and how to collect evidence of student learning in the classroom. They may also be thinking about how students will build upon the knowledge and skills they learn in future courses or learning experiences.
So why is this model presented as a cycle? Once an instructor moves through the three stages in a given teaching and learning context, changes to the classroom environment, the course content, or the instructor’s personal situation may bring them back to another part of the development cycle. For example, Teresa, an experienced instructor who is teaching a survey course for the first time may have reached stage 3 after several years of a seminar course in her field of research, but is now overwhelmed by the large class size (an accompanying diversity of learning needs and interests) for her new class. She may place herself in stage 1 as she gets the hang of the new context (and new content!) for this course. Thus, this model focuses on the present experience of instructors and the unique situational factors they may be facing at a given moment, and less on their “seniority” or “career stage.” Roy, a TA who has been teaching the same discussion for several years may be exploring student-centered learning approaches in stage 3, while Teresa, the instructor from our previous example who is an associate professor, may be focusing on classroom management at stage 1.
This model of instructor development helps me think about the variety of faculty learners who might be in a workshop or course that I facilitate, and helps me design different activities and engagement strategies for participants at different stages of the cycle. I also use this model as a metacognitive exercise for participants, asking them to identify where they see themselves in the cycle that day. This activity both normalizes the dynamic and cyclical nature of teaching development, and helps participants focus their learning for their current state of mind and teaching context.
Richlin, L. (1995). Preparing the faculty of the future to teach. In W. A. Wright’s Teaching improvement practices: successful strategies for higher education Bolton, MA: Anker.