Toward a Holistic STEM Faculty Development Research Agenda

IEEE Computer Society Team
Published 03/02/2024
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Holistic STEM Faculty DevelopmentAlthough many universities and colleges have STEM faculty development programs, glaring deficiencies remain in achieving holistic faculty support. This is particularly true when it comes to supporting faculty in aligning their professional activities—such as teaching—with the pressure to sustain a compelling research trajectory that will advance their own careers.

With rapidly evolving challenges related to AI, plagiarism, and the mental health needs of students, support for faculty members in all areas is more crucial than ever. For STEM faculty, these challenges are coupled with a pressing need to educate STEM graduates for the workforce, adding additional pressure on their priorities and their time.


The FIE Workshop

To interrogate and improve STEM faculty development efforts, a group of researchers from Clemson University’s Engineering and Science Education Department and Department of Teaching and Learning held an interactive workshop at the IEEE Frontiers in Education (FIE) Conference.

Their goal was to create a space for diverse stakeholders to consider and participate in creating a holistic research agenda for STEM faculty development. In conjunction with the workshop, several of the presenting researchers created Clemson’s STEM Faculty Development Collaboratory (SFDC) to sustain this important work.


Workshop Foundations

In addition to the struggle to balance demands on STEM faculty, the FIE workshop was inspired by two research streams:

  • The first stream suggests that professional development can turn external motivation—such as reward structures—into internal motivation.
  • The second stream indicates that faculty would benefit from support beyond the standard programs, such as those focused on new faculty. These additional support areas might include strategies to enhance research, to mentor graduate students, and to meet publishing and other tenure requirements.

The FIE workshop was a follow-up to an earlier SFDC “How Many Hats Do You Wear” workshop, which set out to identify outstanding research questions associated with faculty development and to craft a draft research agenda. The FIE workshop focused on getting input from various participants—including academic, government, and industry professionals—on that draft agenda.


Workshop Activities

In the FIE workshop, the researchers first described how they developed the draft agenda. Next, they presented that draft STEM Faculty Development Research Agenda, which included three main threads:

  • Inputs
  • Processes/mechanisms
  • Outputs

Participants then broke out into three groups, each of which focused on one of the threads and how to improve specific aspects of it. The groups then reported out to the workshop participants the main topics of their group’s discussion.

Finally, the floor was opened to discuss other issues, including additional experts to include in the agenda-development process and how best to disseminate results of that process. The results of this workshop were fed into SFDC’s ongoing agenda development process.


Learn More

It is more important than ever that colleges and universities carefully consider their STEM faculty development initiatives. Even departments that prioritize this development continue to struggle to locate a balance between the traditional reward structure, which prioritizes research, with teaching, leadership, and service-related activities.

For a detailed discussion of the FIE workshop and to learn more about the researchers’ previous and ongoing work, see the article, “Special Session: STEM Faculty Development Research Agenda,” which is available in the CS Digital Library.

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