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Faculty development provides educators with opportunities for self-assessment, the improvement of their abilities and learning new skills. These programs may be sponsored by educational institutions, school districts or governments. They may also be organized by individual teachers on a volunteer basis. The programming available through these efforts may include continuing education courses or short workshops as well as training in new types of technology. At the post-secondary level, faculty development typically also includes providing professors with sabbaticals for engaging in research and writing within their discipline.
Most educational institutions recognize that, in order to be effective educators, instructors need to continually develop their skills and knowledge. The degree to which faculty development programs are made available depend on both the budget that an institution has as well as the commitment of its leadership to providing these opportunities. In some situations, particularly when an institution is operating on a very low budget, faculty may have to operate its own development programs on a volunteer basis.
Some faculty development programs are very specific in their focus. For example, some schools may be interested in integrating various types of instructional technology into the curriculum. These schools may establish specialized faculty development programs with the goal of training all instructors in the technology that the school wants used in its programs. In other cases, a school-sponsored faculty development program may be more diffuse in nature, providing ongoing opportunities in the form of faculty meetings, workshops and consultations.
In addition to improving instructional skills, some faculty development programs focus on helping instructors manage their careers. Such programs may provide career coaching and counseling to instructors, as well as the ability to take time away from teaching to attend professional conferences or to complete educational programs that can lead to a postgraduate degree or professional certification. Instructors who complete these programs may also be eligible for advancement into higher-level teaching or administrative positions within their school or school system.
Universities frequently provide professors who have been hired into tenure track positions with faculty development benefits, such as time off to complete writing and research as well as funds for travel to professional conferences. These benefits may be included in the employment contract between faculty and school. Academic departments may also be provided with funds that can be used to subsidize the travels of faculty members who want to present their research at academic meetings and events.