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Release: Dec. 6, 2000

Faculty developmental assignments improve teaching, report says

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Scholarly research and creative activities conducted by faculty on developmental assignments contribute to improved teaching at the University of Iowa, according to an annual report to be presented to the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, next week.

The 95 UI faculty members who completed a semester-long developmental assignment during the 1999-2000 academic year said their efforts will result in the updating of more than 150 classes.

Those faculty members produced more than 200 scholarly publications, 150 lectures, presentations, and exhibitions, and completed more than 60 applications for external funding for their research. They also earned two patents, created several software programs and websites, and completed work on other works of art, including paintings and photographs.

"We have to continually upgrade the knowledge of our workforce, just as private industry does, if we are to maintain and improve the excellence of the educational experience we offer," said UI Provost Jon Whitmore. "The faculty development assignment program is a core element of that effort. It’s also important to note that our faculty members have to compete for these assignments. Not everyone who applies for them gets them."

Whitmore pointed to three primary benefits of the program:

• A positive and immediate impact on teaching. Faculty who complete developmental assignments use that time to fashion improvements to the courses they teach or to create new courses. The impact on undergraduate teaching is especially noteworthy, because most of the faculty members who took developmental assignments were from the College of Liberal Arts, whose faculty members teach most of the UI’s undergraduate courses.

• The developmental assignment program helps the UI recruit and retain the best faculty. In a 1996 study, 60 percent of faculty members who participated in the program said it was an important factor in their decision to join the UI faculty. Likewise, 80 percent said it was an important factor in their decision to remain at the UI.

• Developmental assignments give faculty members time to complete research projects that attract external funding to the UI, which in turn provides economic benefits for both the UI and the state. In each of the past two fiscal years, UI faculty, staff and students have attracted more than $250 million in external funds.

The UI provost also pointed to the "impressive" productivity of the faculty on developmental assignment. "The payoff is almost immediate in books, articles, new courses developed, new techniques learned that can be taught to students, and in the completion of grant applications and research projects."

The annual report indicates that the cost of the program for the 1999-2000 fiscal year was $4.4 million, mostly for the salary and fringe benefits paid to faculty on developmental assignments. But Whitmore said that less than one-half of one percent – $15,450 – was spent to hire classroom replacements for faculty when departmental colleagues could not teach courses.