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Future Faculty Preparation Programs

Impetus and Development, Characteristics of Programs, Future Trends

Future faculty preparation programs provide a smooth transition between graduate school and faculty positions by preparing graduate students to meet the demands and expectations they will face as faculty members in U.S. colleges and universities. By examining the multiple roles and responsibilities that faculty hold–including research, teaching, and service–these programs extend beyond the parameters of standard graduate education, which emphasizes research, and teaching assistant (TA) development or graduate teaching certification programs, which emphasize present or future teaching alone. Instead, future faculty preparation programs view graduate school as a time for professional development in all areas and emphasize the need for finding and maintaining balance among the wide range of roles future faculty will encounter. At core, these programs share a commitment to cooperatively supporting graduate education in a more holistic way, giving graduate students firsthand experience with appropriate mentoring. This process relies on cooperation and effective communication between diverse institutions, between institution and faculty, and between faculty and graduate students. Most importantly, future faculty preparation programs offer a new model of graduate student development–one not merely supplementary to existing graduate student education or TA development, but one that considers professional development as inherent to graduate schooling.

Impetus and Development

Future faculty preparation programs evolved from the TA training programs that proliferated between 1960 and 1990. Prior to the 1960s no formal training for teaching assistants existed; however, as colleges and universities began to depend on TAs more regularly to teach introductory courses, and as students, as well as the general public, began criticizing the resulting quality of their undergraduate educations, higher education institutions responded by organizing the first formal TA training programs. TA development programs were initially departmental in scope and designed to help TAs perform their graduate teaching tasks effectively, but they were not necessarily designed to equip students for their future roles as faculty members.

The 1986 National Consortium on Preparing Graduate Students as College Teachers initiated a public dialogue focusing on both the important role TAs played in undergraduate education and the lack of formal training to prepare them for faculty positions. This and subsequent biannual conferences provided a forum for new research on TAs' developmental stages and encouraged the proliferation of campus-wide, centralized training programs. By the mid-1990s, after legislators, public officials, and investigative reporters entered the conversation about TA training, the conference began to include broader issues of professional development for graduate students.

These conferences, together with Ernest Boyer's publication of Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate (1990), served as the real impetus for the development of future faculty preparation programs as entities distinct from TA training programs. The conferences prompted further inquiry into the state of TA training, and Boyer's book provoked discussion and debate about the meaning of scholarship and the relationship between teaching and learning. Both encouraged a deliberate focus on the issue of preparing graduate students to meet future professional challenges, "not as a by-product of TA development, but rather as an integral part of their doctoral studies" (Tice et al., p. 276). As this statement attests, although many future faculty programs developed out of TA training programs, they differ from them in their effort to prepare participants for the professoriate by exposing them to all aspects of their future occupations.

Future faculty preparation programs developed as an outgrowth of the public conversations about academic work introduced by Boyer and these TA conferences; this dialogue primarily addressed the frequently reported discrepancy between graduate training and the duties of junior faculty, particularly as many graduate students assumed jobs with very different responsibilities than those at the research university where they received their degree. By providing holistic professional development, early future faculty preparation programs also acknowledged that faculty at most institutions were increasingly expected to demonstrate both strong teaching skills as well as continued research. Growing dissatisfaction with the job readiness skills of doctoral students led to the recognition that graduate students were being trained for research but not for the multiple demands of teaching, research, and the administrative tasks accompanying academic jobs at various institutions. In 1996, for example, fewer than 10 percent of new Ph.D.s received faculty positions at research universities while the majority of the recipients of doctoral degrees took teaching jobs at institutions having very different combinations of mission, student populations, and expectations for faculty.

The launching of the Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program in 1993 marked, according to its website, the first sustained "national initiative to transform doctoral education." The PFF program began as a collaboration between the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU), the Council of Graduate Schools (GSC), and Pew Charitable Trusts. PFF programs bring "the consumers of Ph.D. programs into contact with the producers and provide opportunities for graduate students to gain personal experience with different types of institutions, faculty cultures, and student bodies" (Gaff and Pruitt, p. 1). PFF programs orchestrate this cooperation between the "consumer" (hiring institutions) and "producers" (doctoral degree–granting programs) by organizing partnerships, or clusters, between doctoral-granting institutions and diverse partner institutions or departments. These partners often include public and private four-year baccalaureate colleges, comprehensive state universities, and community colleges to give graduate students a sense of the different roles and responsibilities faculty have at these various institutions.

The explosion of future faculty preparation programs established in the late 1990s could only have happened because of the programs funded as part of PFF. The seventeen clusters of eighty-eight institutions funded in 1993 grew to seventy-six clusters at forty-six doctoral-granting institutions with more than 295 partner institutions by 2000. PFF programs funded between 1993 and 2002 developed in four distinct phases. The first two phases focused on developing model programs (1993–1996) and institutionalizing and spreading these as part of a national initiative (1997–2001). The next two phases shared an emphasis on discipline-specific future faculty preparation primarily through the provision of grants for disciplinary associations and professional groups to form departmentally based PFF programs. With support from the National Science Foundation and a private donor, AACU and GSC collaborated with disciplinary associations and professional groups to develop model programs in the sciences and mathematics (1998–2000) and in the humanities and social sciences (1999–2002).

Since 1993 many institutions have created future faculty preparation programs similar to the PFF model. These programs emphasize that graduate education should provide opportunities for graduate students to learn about and experience all aspects of faculty responsibilities: teaching, research, and service. As with the PFF model, which allows participating institutions to create their own programs to meet graduate student needs and relative stages of development, these programs attempt to anticipate changing faculty needs and expectations, to provide graduate students with training and professional development to help them meet these needs and expectations, and to heighten awareness among established faculty about the changing expectations for faculty and graduate students.

Characteristics of Programs

While they share a common mission, future faculty preparation programs vary in structure, as diverse models have arisen in response to differing participant needs and institutional climates. The impetus for developing the future faculty preparation program, whether as an outgrowth of a TA development program or an initiative to redefine graduate education, often dictates where the program is administered and how it is funded. Future faculty preparation programs are commonly developed and supported in one of three locations: graduate schools, academic departments, or TA development centers. On many campuses, these three units work in concert to offer a combination of centralized and departmentally based activities. Regardless of where they are housed, having a programmatic or financial connection to the graduate school or graduate dean generally fosters support among faculty on the home campus and helps to build collaborations with partner institutions. Many programs further expand their support base through advisory committees consisting of faculty and graduate students.

Where and how the future faculty preparation program is administered usually determines variables such as participant eligibility and length of time to complete activities. Some programs admit students only from certain participating departments, while others enroll participants from across the university. A few also include postdoctoral fellows. In some faculty preparation programs, students go through an application/selection process and participate in the program for a defined time period–often one to two semesters. Upon completion, they earn a graduate teaching certificate or some other honor. Other programs have structured activities that participants complete in stages as part of their graduate education and some allow participants to engage in various components of the program at any time during their graduate career. These latter models tend to have an open enrollment and do not selectively admit candidates to the program. Time commitments typically range from attendance at various short workshops to enrollment in a semester-long course or frequent travel to partner institutions.

While no generic faculty preparation program template exists, many programs offer some combination of the following components.

Courses, seminars, and workshops. These may last a few hours or a semester, with the longer ones often receiving course credit. Topics include comprehensive surveys of teaching techniques, specific pedagogical issues, academic job-market information, professional development tips, and issues in higher education. Some programs offer a cognate in college teaching, a master of science degree for teachers, or a graduate teaching certificate upon completion of certain courses or activities.

Development of materials. Materials for a teaching portfolio and/or web page showcasing their research and teaching are often required of participants. These materials usually include a curriculum vitae, cover letters, and other documents necessary for an academic job search, along with course syllabi, lesson plans, and various materials used to teach a course.

Collaborations with partner institutions. Collaborations are a key feature of many future faculty preparation programs, since they provide opportunities for participants to meet faculty at other institutions. Opportunities range from a one-day visit to shadowing a professor for a day, guest lecturing, or teaching a course at the partner institution. In some cases, participants can sit in on departmental and school committee meetings. These collaborations allow participants to experience the diversity of faculty roles and responsibilities that exist at different types of institutions.

Experiential activities. These provide opportunities for participants to get hands-on practical experience teaching, giving job talks, serving on committees, working with undergraduates, or networking with colleagues. These experiences take place on both the home campus and at the partner institutions.

Mentoring opportunities. These programs give graduate students the opportunity to work with a variety of mentors so that they learn about the varied duties of faculty. Mentors can include faculty and staff at the home campus and partner institution, recent alumni, and experienced future faculty preparation program participants.

Coverage of contemporary issues in higher education. Contemporary issues are often addressed through various activities and usually include a focus on the use of technology in teaching, increasing student diversity, university governance, or changing trends in higher education.

Future Trends

In general, faculty preparation programs encourage a more holistic approach to graduate education. Ideally, the mission and goals of these programs will eventually become part of the ethos of departments and institutions, particularly as the distinct activities and opportunities they provide become fundamental to the graduate curriculum, rendering separate faculty preparation programs obsolete. This transformation depends on the participation of all members of the academic community–from senior faculty and staff to undergraduates–as well as the strengthening of collaborations among diverse institutions so that hierarchical divisions fade away.

The development of future faculty preparation programs signals the beginning of a movement to reexamine, if not radically alter, graduate education. Program directors are beginning to think broadly about the set of skills that future faculty need in order to meet the changing demands of higher education institutions and to create opportunities for them to develop these skills and be leaders in this change. At the same time, many faculty preparation programs now realize that their responsibilities may lie outside the narrow scope of preparing graduate students to be faculty, and instead encompass a broader range of career options for graduate students, both within and outside of academia.


ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES, COUNCIL OF GRADUATE SCHOOLS, and the PEW CHARITABLE TRUSTS. 1997. Preparing Future Faculty: A National Program. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities, Council of Graduate Schools, and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

BOYER, ERNEST L. 1990. Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. Princeton, NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

CHISM, NANCY VAN NOTE. 1998. "Preparing Graduate Students to Teach: Past, Present, and Future." In The Professional Development of Graduate Teaching Assistants, ed. Michele Marincovich, Jack Prostko, and Frederic Stout. Bolton, MA: Anker.

GAFF, JERRY G., and LAMBERT, LEO M. 1996. "Socializing Future Faculty to the Values of Undergraduate Education." Change 28 (4):38–45.

GAFF, JERRY G., and PRUITT, ANNE S. 1996. "Experiences of Graduate Students, Faculty Members, and Administrators in Preparing Future Faculty Programs: Year 1." CGS Communicator 29 (1):1.

PRUITT-LOGAN, ANNE S. ; GAFF, JERRY G.; and WEIBL, RICHARD A. 1998. "The Impact: Assessing Experiences of Participants in the Preparing Future Faculty Program 1994–1996." Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

TICE, STACEY LANE; GAFF, JERRY G.; and PRUITT-LOGAN, ANNE S. 1998. "Preparing Future Faculty Preparation Programs: Beyond TA Development." In The Professional Development of Graduate Teaching Assistants, ed. Michele Marincovich, Jack Prostko, and Frederic Stout. Bolton, MA: Anker.


GOLDE, CHRIS M., and DORE, TIMOTHY M. 2001. "At Cross Purposes: What the Experiences of Today's Doctoral Students Reveal About Doctoral Education." <www.phd-survey.org>.

PREPARING FUTURE FACULTY. 2002. <www.preparing-faculty.org>.



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