6 revelations on faculty roles within competency-based programs

New, wide-reaching report provides snapshot of faculty roles and responsibilities within higher-ed CBE programs.

CBE-programs-competencyWhen it comes to competency-based programs in today’s myriad array of higher-ed institutions, faculty spend most of their time on curriculum design, and have the most concerns about advising and mentoring.

These are just two takeaways from a recent report from the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN)—written by Project Lead and Report Author Michelle Navarre Cleary, associate professor and associate dean of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for DePaul University, and supported by Public Agenda—that, in response to the growing popularity of competency-based education, provides a snapshot the role of faculty members in CBE programs across the country.

The initial results of the survey focused on cataloging the roles and responsibilities of faculty and staff who design and deliver curricula at 30 colleges and universities and four public university systems within C-BEN. The institutions surveyed include community colleges, colleges, universities, and state systems, public, nonprofit, and for-profit schools. 143 individuals from these institutions responded to the C-BEN survey.

“In recent years, questions about the role of faculty members in CBE programs have been raised by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General, regional accreditors, and in the higher education press,” writes Cleary. “With increasing scrutiny and attention being paid to CBE programs, it is vital to develop a clear picture of what faculty are and are not doing in competency-based programs.”

Initial Findings:

1.Titles: Those charged with CBE program design and delivery have a wide variety of titles, with director and professor being the most common. “This finding challenges the oft-repeated-but-unsubstantiated claim that ‘faculty has been largely eliminated in CBE programs,’” notes Cleary. However, more than half of respondents identified as either staff (24 percent) or administration (31 percent); though administrators were also sometimes defined as faculty members.

2.Careers: While most respondents (83 percent) were full-time, only 15 percent were tenured or tenure-track faculty. 17 percent reported that they worked part-time, and “only 19 percent indicated that they participated in shared governance as defined by the American Association of University Professors, a finding which supports some concerns about CBE programs lacking an independent faculty,” writes Cleary.

3.Salaries: Although 69 percent of respondents are salaried employees, others reported being compensated on an incentive-based system (4 percent), at an hourly rate (2 percent), and on a short-term (11 percent), long-term (12 percent), or consulting contract basis (2 percent).

4.Education: The majority of positions required a master’s (56 percent) or a doctorate (29 percent) degree, while 14 percent requires a bachelor’s degree, and 6 percent required additional credentials, such as a registered nurse (RN) certification.

5.Time Spent: Curricular faculty respondents spent their time on four functional categories: Curriculum (41 percent), instruction (34 percent), coaching/advising/mentoring (29 percent), and assessment (26 percent).

(Next page: CBE findings 6-10)

6.Responsibilities Agreed On: Though respondent’s titles were diverse and the types of CBE programs diverse, “the amount of agreement on functions that need to be performed in CBE programs is striking,” states Cleary. For example, 88 percent or more of the institutions surveyed reported performing 12 of the 14 function options in the curriculum category. Also, 50 percent or more of surveyed institutions reported that they performed at least 31 of the 36 available functions within the assessment and instruction categories.

7.Challenge Areas: 75 percent or more of responding institutions perform functions within trying to motivate students and designing CBE programs most beneficial to students. “Arguably, these functions point to two major challenges for CBE programs: attracting and retaining students,” Cleary highlights.

8. Diversified Responsibilities: The greatest diversity in functions is within advising and mentoring (though Cleary notes this may be due to the large number of function options for respondents to choose from).

9.Room for Change: 20 percent of respondents offered suggestions to the open-ended question: “If you could reconfigure the roles and responsibilities of this position, how would you do so? Why” The responses focused mainly on the need to clarify roles and responsibilities (develop success metrics, improve accountability), to improve quality (focus on improving student curriculum, assessment, and delivery design; improve the student experience), or to increase support (improve faculty support, provide additional administrative assistant support, support institutionalization of CBE).

10. Most in Flux: Of the four functional areas identified, finding indicate that the area of coaching/advising/mentoring is currently the most in flux, and C-BEN researchers hope to focus more closely on innovations in this functional area in the future, notes Cleary.

For more detailed information on the report’s findings, as well as in-depth methodology, read “Faculty and Staff Roles and Responsibilities in the Design and Delivery of Competency-Based programs: A C-BEN Snapshot.

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