Transformation through professional development : a multiple case study examination of faculty experiences participating in online diversity, equity, and inclusion workshops.


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Outside the field of education, most higher education faculty receive little instruction or training on pedagogical practice even though they spend a large majority of their time teaching students. This lack of training compounds when educators move into online spaces and must learn how to effectively use technology to engage students. Considering the increased enrollment in online programs of diverse and marginalized students, educators also need professional development specific to diversity, equity, and inclusion practices. The challenge for faculty is their limited time to complete professional development and little incentives from their departments to do so. Faculty also report real fears about participating in diversity, equity, and inclusion professional development. Those fears typically concern facing biases and challenges to their worldview. According to research, even those faculty who do complete professional development on diversity, equity, and inclusion make little change to their teaching practices after. This is a problem for teacher educators whose goal is to create learning that inspires change. Without transformations to teaching practice, professional development is of little value. This multiple case study used data from six interviews with higher education faculty all teaching online who completed an eight-week workshop series on equity and social justice in the digital learning environment. Using Mezirow’s (1991) transformational learning theory as the theoretical framework, the research answered questions about how faculty experienced professional development and the transformations they made to their teaching practice after. Participants included evidence of their transformations by providing artifacts of changes made to their teaching at the conclusion of the series. These artifacts provided an important connection between learning from professional development and actual transformations to teaching. Results from the study indicated faculty experienced increased reflection on their identities, camaraderie amongst attendees, and comfort in having equitable conversations with diverse peers. Participants also reported increased motivation to create inclusive classrooms, greater confidence to make changes, and gained advanced tools to facilitate diversity, equity, and inclusion practices. Professional development educators can apply these study findings to their future training programs to help ensure faculty are making equitable changes to their teaching practice.