The VTLC as Professional Development
Co-authored by the VTLC Advisory Committee and VTLC Director

The 15-member VTLC Advisory Committee and the VTLC Director wrote this statement in response to requests that emerged in the end-of-the-year survey and the Department Chairs' Retreat feedback.  (See the VTLC Annual Report 2011, "Selected Results: Areas for Reconsideration, Growth, and Improvement," page 6.)

As VTLC programs explicitly “emphasize teaching excellence including the development, use, and assessment of effective teaching methods” and “foster scholarly activity that supports the mission of the University of Wisconsin Colleges” (Select Mission and Goals of the UWC), faculty and instructional staff who participate in VTLC activities are encouraged to include this work as professional development of teaching in their Activity Reports and retention materials 

"Professional Development"

The notion of “professional development” should not be restricted to funding to attend professional meetings, research grants, and sabbaticals.  Such a definition too narrowly defines our professional identities and too narrowly allocates resources for our professional work.  Lee S. Shulman’s exploration of the term “professor” is helpful here, not as it indicates one’s rank but instead one’s work.  He notes the contemporary meaning is

to profess one's understanding, one's expertise: to be professional, or to be a "professor." Members of professions take on the burden of their understanding by making public commitments to serve their fellow beings in a skilled and responsible manner. "Professors" take on a special set of roles and obligations. They profess their understanding in the interests of nurturing the knowledge, understanding, and development of others. They take learning so seriously that they profess it.

As professors and professional educators, we UWC faculty and teaching staff should continue to develop our understanding of teaching and its relationship to learning, and to add evidence-based methods to our repertoire.  Such active, critical, and scholarly reflection is a cornerstone of effective teaching. 


* The terms “professional development” and “faculty development” are often used interchangeably. We prefer the former term, as it’s not limited to the UW Colleges’ use of “faculty,” which excludes instructional academic staff.
According to the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education (POD, the major North American organization of faculty developers*), professional development includes programs that focus on the “faculty member as a teacher, scholar and professional, and as a person,” with the most common of the programs focusing on the work of the teacher, in part because graduate school work in the U.S. is almost exclusively limited to disciplinary training with little to no training in pedagogy. Professional development of teaching offered through the VTLC aligns with POD’s definition and ranges from reading about classic and current knowledge on teaching and learning, critically reflecting on our teaching practices and their effects on our students, participating in pedagogical workshops, and conducting research on and in our own classes.

Documenting Professional Development

When documenting PD work in the context of the VTLC, we should consider our activities in the context of the VTLC’s mission and goals.  Such documentation can include the ways in which VTLC activities have

  • Facilitated the sharing of the pedagogical knowledge available in research on teaching and learning and through the expertise of faculty and instructional academic staff (IAS) of the UW Colleges and the wider UW System
  • Provided resources that lead to understanding and use of documented best practices in teaching and learning\
  • Offered and participated in programs and resources that engaged faculty and IAS in reflections and discussions that encouraged purposeful, informed pedagogy


“Faculty Development Definitions” Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education: What Is Faculty Development? POD, 2007, Web.  11 Dec. 2011.

Select Mission and Goals of the University of Wisconsin Colleges.”  University of Wisconsin Colleges: Administration. UW Colleges. n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2011.

Shulman, Lee S. "Taking Learning Seriously," Change  31.4  (July/August 1999): 10-17. Print.