The City Colleges of Chicago system -- like many two-year institutions nationally -- is in the midst of a massive period of turnover for faculty members. Of roughly 600 full-time faculty members, half have started in the last eight years. Another 150 full-time faculty members are expected to be hired in the next few years, largely to replace long-time professors who are retiring.
Many of the arriving faculty members will be fresh Ph.D.'s, moving from research universities where they learned nothing about community colleges. Many others will previously have been adjuncts who shuttled among the many Chicago-area campuses.
In what some experts say may be a breakthrough program, the Chicago colleges are teaming with Roosevelt University to provide training for faculty members that goes well beyond an orientation for new hires. Participants will go through 9-15 credit hours of courses -- team-taught by Roosevelt and City Colleges faculty members -- about teaching at two-year institutions and the range of issues facing them. The idea is not only to prepare people for the classroom, but to give some of the new arrivals the kind of training that might turn them into leaders at their institutions, and give them the background that might help prepare them for an administrative career.
Participating faculty members will not pay any tuition -- Roosevelt is cutting its normal rates and the City Colleges system and its faculty union are splitting the other costs.
"We don't just want to train faculty. We want to be able in the future to bring them up into the administration," said John H. Metoyer, associate dean of instruction at Harold Washington College.
The program is an outgrowth of a smaller effort from a few years back in which training was provided by Loyola University Chicago. But Metoyer said that program was focused just on the classroom, and the new program -- which will start in the fall -- has a much broader agenda. Courses will include "New Issues in Community College Teaching," "Curriculum, Course Design and Assessment," "Leadership and Governance" and "Creativity in Teaching."
Metoyer, who is in his first year as an administrator, after teaching English at the college, said that teaching doesn't get enough attention in graduate programs generally, and that teaching at a community college just isn't covered. Students in classes at Harold Washington range in age from 18 to 50, come from all over the world and every ethnic and racial group, and have a range of educational backgrounds -- and educational deficiencies.
Most composition teaching is at least in part remedial, Metoyer said, and those who received Ph.D.'s at top research universities need to learn strategies for reaching students with backgrounds different from their own.
Karen Gersten, associate provost of academic programming and faculty development at Roosevelt, is organizing the effort there. She is recruiting faculty members from education, adult education and various subject disciplines. Because Roosevelt also educates many nontraditional students, its faculty members are aware of the need to use different teaching strategies, she said.
"A lot of this is working backwards -- What skills do we want students at the community colleges to learn? What's preventing them from learning? What can we do about that issue?" she said.
Roosevelt has both philosophical and practical reasons for focusing on Chicago's community colleges. From a philosophical level, Roosevelt was founded in 1945 in part as a rebellion against models of higher education that limited the enrollment of black, Jewish and other groups of students. "Our mission is the education of all people, and many of those people are enrolling at community colleges," she said. From a practical level, the City Colleges are among Roosevelt's feeder institutions, and the largest one for transfers to Roosevelt's Chicago campus, so if the quality of teaching at the community colleges improves, Roosevelt will be enrolling better prepared students.
Daniel Denecke, director of best practices at the Council of Graduate Schools, sees the Roosevelt-City Colleges partnership as significant. While community colleges want to offer more faculty development, they have limited resources to do so. "This is great because it builds on the leveraging of institutional resources," he said.
"What seems unique is that you have faculty training faculty," he said, "with each institution recognizing that there are mutual benefits."