Post Tenure Faculty Development: Building a System of Faculty Improvement and Appreciation. ERIC Digest. 

by Alstete, Jeffrey

Despite the continuing changes in higher education and an increasing number of alternatives to tenure today, tenured faculty are the largest cohort of faculty in colleges and universities. The U. S. Department of Education, in a national study of postsecondary faculty (National Center, 1993), found that 92.8% of all institutional types award tenure and that 51.3% of all faculty were tenured or on a tenure track. The uncapping of the mandatory retirement age, the still widespread awarding of tenure, and the prolonged life span of the professoriat have all combined to increase the number of tenured faculty. This situation is of concern as a variety of external forces affect higher education, including increased use of information technology, globalization of the curriculum, decreasing government support, changing accreditation requirements, continued diversification in student demographics, and negative public perceptions about the tenure system. What will happen as these external influences affect changes in the institutional missions and how the outcomes from higher education are evaluated? The answer could be a negative confrontation as a result of the increasing age and knowledge gap, or a positive learning experience for both generations. Posttenure faculty development is one way to address this challenge. 


Several definitions of faculty development are found in the literature. "Faculty development" is a phrase that has both a broad and a narrow definition. Broadly, it covers a wide range of activities that have as their overall goal the improvement of student learning. More narrowly, the phrase is aimed at helping faculty members improve their competence as teachers and scholars (Eble & McKeachie, 1985). 

Faculty development programs vary in their purpose, but they are commonly designed to enhance personal and professional development, instructional development, and/or organizational development. Professional development involves promoting faculty growth and enabling faculty members to obtain and enhance job-related skills, knowledge, and awareness. Instructional development involves the preparation of learning materials, styles of instruction, and updating courses. Organizational development focuses on creating an effective institutional atmosphere in which faculty and faculty development personnel can implement new practices for teaching and learning (Gaff, 1975). Personal development efforts involve a more holistic approach to help faculty members enhance interpersonal skills, promote wellness, and assist with career planning (Graf, Albright, & Wheeler, 1992). Curriculum development is another component that overlaps with each of the preceding areas; it involves the development of additional scholarly and teaching competencies, creation of new instructional materials, and the development of new communication and organizational patterns (Bergquist & Phillips, 1975; Eble & McKeachie, 1985). Based on these definitions, posttenure faculty development involves those activities that seek to improve student learning, teaching, scholarship, and service in higher education by developing personal, instructional, organizational, and curricular aspects of faculty members who have earned tenure. 


Posttenure faculty development can be classified as optional, required, or jointly sponsored by several institutions. Optional programs can be stand-alone programs or part of a comprehensive faculty development system at an institution. Optional strategies include award programs specifically designed to encourage and motivate tenured faculty, fellowship programs, teaching projects, writing projects, teaching partnerships, workshops, seminars, and development plans. Faculty development plans can be optional or required of all faculty, and methods are available to help motivate tenured faculty for full participation in this process and reward them accordingly. Optional programs have had positive outcomes, including increased faculty performance and student retention, at several institutions. 

Required posttenure faculty development is usually part of a formal posttenure review system. Such systems are becoming more common today as the public calls for increased accountability and performance from postsecondary faculty (Licata & Morreale, 1997). This approach has the advantage of institution-supported consequences for nonperformance by the tenured faculty. The development component can be required in all reviews or "triggered" by specific outcomes of a faculty member's evaluation. The development process in these cases normally involves the creation of a faculty development plan, which usually includes specific objectives for teaching, research, and service in a stated time period, along with a follow-up mechanism to ensure performance. The American Association of University Professors (1997) recently issued a statement admitting that posttenure review is becoming a reality and that such systems should be designed to support professional development of and responsibility by the faculty in their duties. 

A comprehensive posttenure faculty development program can require a significant institutional investment, but one institution is not required to fund the entire program. Jointly sponsored programs, perhaps cosponsored with other institutions or professional associations, can be effective and relatively low cost. 


Faculty development strategies differ according to institutional type and stated mission. Faculty development programs are more successful if they seek out participation and input from a variety of faculty members (including tenured professors) and consult them in planning decisions (Nelson & Siegel, 1980; Sorcinelli, 1988). Administrators and faculty leaders should clearly define the objectives of the program and what kinds of development (professional, instructional, curricular, organizational) will be emphasized. Department chairs are also a key component of effective faculty development because they are on the front line in handling faculty development plans, travel approvals, course evaluations, and complaints from students. In planning programs, faculty developers should study all aspects of the institution, including its culture, academic programs, committee systems, administrative hierarchy, and organizational structure; they should seek support from the administration. It can be helpful to map out development activities for faculty at different stages of their careers using a template to ensure that the multiple roles faculty must perform are supported. After reviewing the literature, collecting information on process and outcomes from institutions, and reading discussions about these issues, this author recommends that a comprehensive posttenure faculty development system not be formally linked to a posttenure review process so as to separate the evaluative and development components, helping to ensure more effective participation and allowing faculty to set higher achievement goals. An overall model of development programs for tenured faculty should consider the institution's mission, and should consist of optional, jointly sponsored, and required components. Once development plans for tenured faculty are implemented, proper supervision and evaluation are important to continuously improve and maintain quality. One method of accomplishing it is benchmarking, which analyzes institutional faculty development practices and outcomes with selected peers to determine the best practices and potential areas for improvement in an institution. 


Some view tenure as one of the potential weaknesses that tradition-bound institutions like colleges and universities must overcome. Instead of eliminating tenure as some institutions are doing, creating and implementing development strategies that enable faculty to improve and feel appreciated is a more viable choice. Research has shown that tenured faculty members have many strengths compared with their junior colleagues and that they are more likely to participate in faculty development programs. Whether an institution chooses to implement a required development component as part of a posttenure review system, a series of optional programs, or some combination, it is important that the strategy go beyond a one-time solution and quick cure. 

For some faculty members, however, reasonable efforts at bringing renewal will not be successful. For those individuals--and to help ensure the effective development of those tenured faculty who want to continue to grow and learn--the institution should consider other alternatives. Those institutions with a formal posttenure review process already have the mechanism in place to accomplish the proper weeding or termination of nondeveloping faculty. In some colleges and universities, another alternative is an early retirement or phased-retirement policy. This strategy, in combination with effective administrative leadership that points out other consequences for remaining full time and nonproductive, can help motivate some faculty to make the proper choice. 

Posttenure faculty development strategies will continue to grow and change as higher education systems are transformed by new technology, new types of students, and new approaches to college teaching, scholarship, and service. Institutions with effective posttenure faculty development strategies will be better able to compete and thrive than those that do not assist their tenured faculty to continually develop and meet new challenges. 


National Center for Education Statistics. (1993). National study of postsecondary faculty. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved January 1, 1999, from the World wide Web: 

Eble, K. E., & McKeachie, W. J. (1985). Improving undergraduate education through faculty development: An analysis of effective programs and practices. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 

Gaff, J. G. (1975). Toward faculty renewal. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 

Graf, D. L., Albright, M. J., & Wheeler, D. W. (1992, Fall). Faculty development's role in improving undergraduate education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 51, 101-109. 

Bregquist, W. H., & Phillips, S. R. (1975). Components of an effective faculty development program. Journal of Higher Education, 46, 177-211. 

Licata, C. M., & Morreale, J. C. (1997). Post-tenure review: Policies, practices, precautions, new pathways. In Faculty careers and employment for the 21st century. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education. 

American Association of University Professors. (1997). Standards for good practice in post-tenure review [Online], 1-13. Available: 

Nelson, W. C., & Siegal, M. E. (1980). Effective approaches to faculty development. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges. 

Soricinelli, M. D. (1988). Encouraging excellence: Long-range planning for faculty development. In E. C. Wadsworth (Ed.), A handbook for new practitioners (pp.27-34). Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press. 

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