If you have ever worked in instructional design or faculty development, you understand the struggle that is gaining faculty buy-in. As academic staff, we have a clear understanding of how valuable the use of certain teaching methods and/or educational technology can be in affecting student outcomes. Therefore, we’re rightfully eager to share that information with our faculty members. This desire is twofold—a genuine excitement to help students as well as professional validation. We know we can help. We know we have value. Now, if we could just get faculty to buy in to all of the knowledge and ideas we want to share with them.
Gaining Faculty Buy-In
Faculty members are incredibly busy, and time is a precious commodity for them. If we, as academic staff, want them bought into a new idea or process, we need to make these educational best practices worth the time they’re going to spend on it. So how do we do this? Let’s start with what doesn’t work, shall we?
First and foremost, faculty members need more than “cool ideas.” As much value as we may find in a new educational technology program, pitching it to faculty on opinions alone isn’t going to gain their attention. Don’t take this personally though—your opinion isn’t being dismissed; we just aren’t building value when we describe a time-intensive new teaching method as being something that is “fun that students will like.” And yes, I sadly know this from experience.
Second, faculty within our own institution do not always find value in research reports from other institutions. Unfortunately, educational programs tend to be uniquely staffed by the number of educational support personnel available to assist faculty. Therefore, the reports produced by other institutions can be difficult to apply at our schools as we may not have the support in place to implement certain educational methods.
So, how do we gain faculty buy-in and make the impact of instructional design staff relevant at our schools? By leveraging student assessment data. Each assessment given within our institutions is loaded with unlimited statistical potential to make data-driven decisions that can positively affect our faculty and students. Think about what you want to evaluate in your curriculum and/or classroom and how you would like to improve it. If we want to convince faculty to make these changes, we have to give them proof that the changes are worth the effort we’re expecting of them.
Using Assessment Data to Gain Faculty Buy-in
Gathering the data needed to increase faculty buy-in is actually a very easy task. By using an exam software that includes the functionality to tag exam items to customizable “categories,” there are no limits to what we can evaluate in our classrooms. Simply tag questions in the assessment tool by the methods and/or materials used to teach that content and then review the data after each exam. Additionally, longitudinal analysis of these categories can quickly be pulled. Therefore, we can provide our faculty with the statistics needed to influence data-driven changes to their teaching that is proven at your institution to be successful with your students. That’s right—tell faculty which teaching method they use that is most directly correlated to improved student outcomes on their exams.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have data from your own students’ performance to use as evidence to help faculty buy-in? Some ideas include the following:
- Increasing the use of a specific teaching method
- Implementing a brand-new teaching method
- Increasing the use of visuals during instruction
- Using formative assessment to drive learning
These goals are all attainable by categorizing exam items to assess the success of these instructional methods. Having hard data from your own students’ performance to prove what makes them most successful is difficult to dispute. And there’s our buy-in! Fortunately, this is more than a one-time deal. Gaining faculty buy-in is something that continues to grow throughout the curriculum. Start small, add a few champions, highlight their students’ success based on the data-driven changes made to their teaching, and use that to prove to others the importance of instructional design and assessment data.
Assessment data is a powerful tool in evaluating course effectiveness. Therefore, it should also be used as a catalyst in driving improved course design and instruction. Used effectively, student outcomes assessment data can increase the faculty buy-in required to truly improve student performance through more effective teaching. Isn’t helping students improve their outcomes why we’re in education in the first place?
Learn more about how ExamSoft’s assessment tool can help provide your faculty with the data needed to effect change here.