October 1998 // Faculty and Staff Development
Moving Toward a More Inclusive Reward Structure
by Erwin Boschmann
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source (http://ts.mivu.org/) as: Erwin Boschmann "Moving Toward a More Inclusive Reward Structure" The Technology Source, October 1998. Available online at http://ts.mivu.org/default.asp?show=article&id=1034. The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

It is the academy's mission to make discoveries, to create knowledge, and to share its findings. For successfully fulfilling this calling, faculty are rewarded with tenure, promotion, and merit increases. Since this process is self-monitoring, the academy must constantly review its measures to avoid erosion such as confusing busy work with scholarship, and at the same time ensure inclusion of new frontiers and intellectual endeavors. Major self-examination has come about with the emergence of such fields as women's studies, service learning, and on some campuses, the inclusion of librarians in the faculty promotion and tenure process. The infusion of technology into higher education brings about yet another challenge: is technology simply a tool, or does it have real potential for scholarship and the promise of rewards?

The Issues

  • The Use of Technology is New. Since there is no long-standing history of using information technology tools in pedagogy, there are no precedents and no standards, and hence it tends to be safer to make negative decisions on rewards.
  • Confusing Effort with Scholarship. As with any new venture, an inordinate amount of time is required to get technology fully established. Transferring lecture notes into PowerPoint, or producing videos for broadcast, takes a lot of learning time, much as it does for a faculty member to go from a master's degree to a doctorate. Desirable as these activities may be, an institution cannot reward such time with, say, sabbatical leaves. On the other hand, research-based scholarship, such as studying the effect of technology on student learning, should be rewarded.
  • There is Little Existing Research on Learning. While there have been tremendous developments in information technology itself, very little is known about its effect on learning. While many conference themes proclaim an examination of technology and pedagogy, most papers discuss logistics, technology, costs, and networking, rather than learning.
  • Reward Decisions Tend to be Made by Persons with a Different Framework. It is very difficult for a fifty-year-old professor who was promoted on traditional scholarship to make reward decisions on the scholarship of a younger colleague who creates software to better match teaching and learning styles, and this void is often nearly unbridgeable.

Finding Common Ground

Rapidly evolving endeavors bring about a threatening gap between the world of decision-makers and those affected by their decisions. The only solution is to find and work from a common denominator. Our common denominator is a set of agreed-upon premises for technology:

  • Learning is not bound by place, time, speed, or style.
  • Learning takes place best when students are engaged.
  • Technology is the best tool to foster student engagement.
  • Research in these areas is bona fide scholarship.

If rewards are based upon true scholarly activity whose products are shared, peer reviewed, published, funded, adopted, and become the basis of conferences, then sound reward decisions can be made. In order to ensure that such intellectual common ground is also "accepted" common ground, several steps can be taken.

Ten Specific Steps

  1. Chief academic officers must make frequent public statements about the importance of the scholarship by citing research findings, national trends, and specific examples from the area of technology. Most faculty, even those recently trained, still come from fairly traditional graduate school settings and find it hard to believe that scholarship in teaching and learning is just as worthy of promotion and tenure as is traditional research. In the last half-dozen years, our promotion and tenure (P&T) ledger shows about the same number of positive decisions based on research as based on teaching and service.
  2. Top administrators should themselves teach at least once per year using both delivery technologies (such as PowerPoint, TV, and videos) and, more importantly, engagement technologies (for example, e-mail, Web-based courses, interactive video discs, and interactive computer programs). It is comforting for faculty to see their administrators struggle as they do when teaching with information technology tools, and administrators can then also speak with authority about the problems and advantages of these technologies.
  3. Administration should provide meaningful blocks of time off for promising faculty to develop courses using technology. Every summer at IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis), a group of faculty members receive a summer stipend to create or revamp an existing course. They compete for admission via a proposal, and once accepted, they work with an expert in higher education to ensure sound pedagogical approaches.
  4. Schools must provide significant in-house grants to faculty to explore the use of technology in teaching and learning. The grant proposals should be scrutinized by a group of peers much as federal grants are, and the letter of award should require that the final report document how the institution's primary mission—student learning—will be positively affected by their work.
  5. Workshops should be provided that give hands-on assistance in the use of technology and its effect on learning. Our Office of Faculty Development has organized conceptual workshops for years, whereas our Center for Teaching and Learning has conducted hands-on workshops.
  6. Universities should create a Center for Teaching and Learning, making sure it has the technology and staff to be of real assistance. It is critical that it not be merely a technology center, but also house experts in instructional design, outcomes assessment, pedagogy, informatics, and copyright/fair use issues.
  7. Very visible awards and rewards should be passed out to those who make significant scholarly advances. Our top awards ($3,000 addition to the salary base) go to those who have made a significant and lasting contribution to student learning.
  8. Members of promotion and tenure committees should undergo annual orientation sessions on the broad, inclusive nature of scholarship. For many this is difficult, since the tendency is to review others utilizing the same criteria as one's own review, but an effort should be made.
  9. Schools must conduct orientations for new administrators at the chair and dean level. Mock sessions on promotion and tenure have been extremely successful for us. We have also found it useful to write a memorandum of understanding pertaining to promotion and tenure, including the dean, chair, and faculty member who wishes to devote creative energies to the use of technology and its effect on teaching and learning.
  10. Successful promotion and tenure cases should be publicized (even placed on public file, with proper permission) as a model to colleagues. At IUPUI we have also published a volume entitled "Technology Success Stories," featuring some 50 faculty who have found meaningful applications of technology in their teaching.

Lessons And Challenges

Cultural changes do not take place rapidly. Even changes in both the quantity and quality of information do not necessarily result in behavioral changes. It takes time to learn to adapt to new opportunities, to adapt to new ways of looking at scholarship, and to integrate these into the fabric of an existing reward structure. Faculty must be given ample support both institutionally and individually. We are told that the invention of the printing press really had very little effect on education for nearly a century, so when faculty and students find meaningful ways to use technology for teaching and learning, it is good to celebrate even modest achievements.

Faculty and administrators alike have learned that work in information technology cannot be done in isolation. The development of a technology-rich course calls for a team approach. In fact, IUPUI works increasingly with instructional teams that include experts in instructional design, informatics, multimedia, copyright/fair use, graphics, and assessment. Likewise, the campus service units such as technology centers, computing centers, learning centers, and even telephone operations have been merged, both to increase fiscal efficiency and to focus on our common mission: student learning.

Faculty do respond positively. IUPUI is a large institution with 1,500 full-time faculty and about 27,000 students, and with size comes a natural tendency to maintain the status quo. However, many innovative technology designs and products have come about as the result of faculty scholarly activities.

Many challenges remain. Developments in information technology demand time and funding. Yet if such developments are pedagogically sound, we really have no option. How does one encourage faculty members to push the limits of technology, yet make them aware of its limitations and help them to decide what technology should not be used for? Will we have the right vision not just for what is over the horizon, but also for the opportunities right in front of us? The overhead projector was invented in 1876, and eventually began its use in bowling alleys, but it took educators another 35 years to see its potential for teaching.

Our decision-making process will continue to be further complicated by ever-changing technologies and an evolving social values system. However, decisions in such a changing environment can be facilitated if we keep in mind those fundamentals which do not change; namely, that faculty are motivated by intellectual challenges and meaningful incentives, and that students learn best if given a chance to be engaged.

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