Exploring Application of the Training of Trainers (ToT) Model on Faculty Professional Development and Teaching Practices in a Summer Learning Community

Exploring Application of the Training of Trainers (ToT) Model on Faculty Professional Development and Teaching Practices in a Summer Learning Community

Brandon A. Moton, Cheree Y. Wiltsher
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-5332-2.ch001
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The training of trainers (ToT) model is an evidence-informed approach that significantly improves professional development opportunities for faculty. Despite ToT's multiple uses in various settings, few studies have explored the use of the model as a basis for professional development at higher education institutions. This chapter addresses the utility of the ToT framework during a faculty learning community (FLC). The emphasis of this chapter is centered on the operationalization of the ToT constructs and the development of a conceptual framework to depict the process. Using a qualitative approach, the authors also highlight the experiences of faculty participating in the FLC. Additionally, they provide self-reflections from researchers who employed the ToT model and their motivation for using the framework to develop and implement the FLC. Finally, they propose that the ToT model discussed in this chapter will illuminate adopting and using innovative, evidence-based models for faculty training and professional development opportunities at higher education institutions.
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How professionals in the academy continue to learn is a topic that is often undervalued, under-researched, and not well understood (Haras, 2018). Pursuing continuous learning provides the basis for seeing things in a new light and trying out novel approaches, ultimately leading to innovation. New knowledge, skills, and ideas happen when unanticipated challenges arise or when we challenge ourselves. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic presented unforeseen difficulties for both teachers and learners, causing a tremendous upheaval in teaching and learning across institutions. These unexpected adversities prompted many faculty to acknowledge the necessity to do more instead of simply “making do.” Some settled in to reflect more deeply through research and renewed efforts as it became even more evident that higher education institutions should lead in innovating beyond the status quo. The immediacy of the modality shift was not without obstacles, both inherent to the pivot and incidental. It was not enough to package course activities and a syllabus in the usual way with added virtual zoom meetings, and adjustments for achieving the learning outcomes. Instructors and professors had to consider that their standard teaching methods in the face-to-face classroom setting needed to be adapted for online delivery. While it was not novel that pandemic instructional spaces saw students with various learning styles and preferences, expectations around the quality of the learning experience are more salient than ever.

The mass and abrupt mandatory transition to virtual instruction exposed gaps and solidified a sense of urgency for embracing the virtual modality. Students and their instructors needed to feel engaged and inspired in the teaching and learning equation. Even the best educators were challenged to modify their teaching styles through curricula and strategies that more fully addressed the needs of a diverse student population. The resultant focus was a new, more nuanced consideration of the educational environment and learners' academic performance. Essentially, the pandemic served as a real-time reminder of the value of assessing, training, and developing higher education faculty to strengthen their pedagogical techniques continuously and actively.

Without institutional support for continuous learning, processes do not change, innovation does not happen, and nothing genuinely compelling can be accomplished. The relationship between faculty professional development and enhanced teaching practices is well documented in the literature. Effectual professional development activities allow faculty to expand their skill sets in endless ways that incorporate practice and feedback with adequate time for implementation, self-reflection, and follow-up support (Buczynski & Hansen, 2009; Darling-Hammond, 2000; OECD, 2005; Ricci, L. A., Haras, C., & Kelly, K., 2020). As a component of productive professional development, continuous learning may be engaged in and pursued in formal, social, and self-directed ways. When approached as a part of the institutional environment, continuous learning can be solidified as an expected feature of a supportive culture.

This chapter provides readers with insights gleaned from the firsthand experiences of faculty who participated in a year-long professional development opportunity, which resulted in their earning a national credential in evidence-based teaching practice offered by the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE). As the author’s contemplated the offering of summer professional development opportunities for faculty, several stand-out credentialed faculty were identified based on their enthusiasm and initiative around implementing strategies learned in the year-long program. Those selected credentialed faculty were then tasked with developing and facilitating instructional sessions in the summer faculty learning community. The Training of Trainers (ToT) model was an organically identified approach. This model is based on employing expert (i.e., credentialed) trainers to facilitate and guide the coaching of new potential trainers who are less experienced with a particular skill or topic. This analysis provides an additional lens, affording insight into the design and delivery of a transformational professional development course using an empirically grounded model and discussing its impact on the authors (trainees who became trainers) and course participants (trainees as potential future trainers).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Faculty Learning Community: Peer-led groups of faculty, staff, and graduate students who engage in an active, collaborative, year-long program structured to provide encouragement, support, and reflection.

Qualitative: Relating to, measuring, or measured by the quality of something rather than its quantity. In terms of research, relies on data obtained by the researchers from first hand observation, interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, and participant-observation, recordings made in natural settings, documents, case studies, and artifacts.

Teaching Practice: The art and science of organizing knowledge and demonstrating relevant skills. Activity carried out by a teacher or a professor.

Self-Reflection: The ability to witness and evaluate our own cognitive, emotional, and behavioral processes.

Community Building: A field of practices directed toward the creation or enhancement of community among individuals within a regional area or with a common interest. It is sometimes encompassed under the field of community development.

Training of Trainers (ToT): A model intended to engage in master trainers in coaching new trainers that are less experienced with a particular topic or skill, or with training overall.

Faculty Development: A term similarly used for staff development and professional development, in settings that pertain to educators. May include teacher training, and is usually considered pre-service, or before beginning teaching.

ACUE: Association of University Educators, an organization whose mission is to ensure student success and equity through quality instruction.

Professional Development: Any learning to earn or maintain professional credentials such as academic degrees to formal coursework, attending conferences, and informal learning opportunities situated in practice. It has been described as intensive and collaborative, ideally incorporating an evaluative stage.

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL): Systemic inquiry into student learning which advances the practice of teaching in higher education by identifying a problem, asking a question, gathering evidence, drawing conclusions based on that evidence, and making those findings public for the benefit of others.

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