National History of PFF

“Education is by far the biggest and the most hopeful of the Nation’s enterprises. Long ago our people recognized that education for all is not only democracy’s obligation but its necessity. Education is the foundation of democratic liberties. Without an educated citizenry alert to preserve and extend freedom, it would not long endure.” – Truman Commission on Higher Education, 1947

Logo of the Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) national initiative.

The Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) national initiative was launched in 1993 by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS). The initiative aimed to transform how graduate students prepared for academic careers in higher education. Today, these goals are even more urgent as higher education changes radically. PFF programs play a critical role in helping graduate students prepare for productive and balanced faculty lives of ethical and excellent scholarly practice, teaching, and service.

For information on the program you can read a report funded by Pew Charitable Trusts titled “The Preparing Future Faculty Program: What Difference Does It Make?” by A. Leigh DeNeef. The report found that “PFF has smoothed the transition between graduate school and their initial academic positions and has brought them into the larger conversation of academic reform” and “PFF makes a real difference in the professional lives of beginning academics.”


Our Teaching Philosophy

“Of all the civil rights for which the world has struggled and fought for 5,000 years, the right to learn is undoubtedly the most fundamental.”
– W.E.B. Du Bois, W.E.B. Du Bois Speaks

Teaching & Learning Contexts

What is the nature of the world for which we prepare our students? What are our ethical responsibilities in preparing students for this world? We live in a global space rapidly increasing in complexity:

  1. Rapid change and Emergence: Nothing has ever stood still. But change today is constant and rapid, even accelerating. Acquiring knowledge is not as important as being able to find, evaluate, select, organize, connect, construct, dismantle, and re-construct knowledge.
  2. Divergence and Plurality: We must learn to embrace multiple perspectives, multiple meanings and truths. Globalization reveals proliferating diversities. We increasingly experience and work with multiple perspectives that challenge the notion of a single, objective truth. Differences define our world, even as we realize our inextricable and profound interconnections.
  3. Creativity and Innovation: Constant change, multiple perspectives, and divergences in all aspects of human life and interaction are daunting, often bewildering. And yet, these are just the conditions that give us exciting opportunities for exploration and innovation.
  4. Inter-connected: Networked. Dynamic interactions. All these proliferating differences only serve to highlight connections. We live and work in a richly interconnected or networked context of people, places, actions, and information. Our thoughts, responses, choices, and actions have a dynamic and exponential effect on others, and theirs on us.
  5. Ethical Challenges and Opportunities: In this interconnected context that juxtaposes rich diversity, multiple perspectives, and constant change, we face perplexing dilemmas of judgment, choice, and action.

In such a complex, global space, the successful individual is someone who is:

  • Curious and open to new ideas and experiences.
  • An explorer, unafraid of the unknown; sees learning risks and errors as pathways in learning.
  • Globally Competent, a plural thinker, able to see from multiple perspectives, who embraces diversity of people and ideas.
  • Agile and adaptive in responding to emerging situations; an improviser.
  • Creative, able to escape conditioned thinking to find new connections and ideas.
  • Connective in working with diverse people, ideas, and situations.
  • Critically discerning in analyzing and synthesizing information to build knowledge
  • Ethical in decision making based on clear thinking and reasoned judgment grounded in personal and social responsibility.
  • Self-aware and a lifelong learner, able to constantly learn, unlearn, and relearn

As educators and leaders, we help our students to develop these capacities in addition to mastering content knowledge. We also realize we need to develop these capacities in ourselves in order to do good work in engaging and leading our students. Our goal in the PFF program is to work with you to build a reflective practice that will help you develop these capacities for success even as you learn how to design inclusive learning processes that nurture these capacities in your students.

What is Learning?

Learning is an active, agile sense-making process involving cognition and emotion. Classroom learning is a social process embedded within the dynamics of the classroom context. To learn is to…

  1. Navigate uncertainty and enjoy the unknown. We build new knowledge and skills when we step from the edge of what we know into a space where we do not know or where there are new possibilities. Thus, learning often happens in a cognitively and emotionally dissonant or “wobbly” space. Successful learners have a high tolerance for – even enjoyment of – this “wobbly” feeling because they are curious; they love to explore and discover. To them, uncertainty signals that they are moving into learning something new. It’s an adventure!
  2. Take risks and make mistakes. Edging into the unknown is risky; errors are typical when developing new knowledge and skills. Successful learners are willing to take learning risks. They see mistakes as points of discovery and innovation rather than failure. Falling down is just part of the adventure.
  3. Embrace differences and divergence. Differences and divergent perspectives expand our knowledge and skills. Successful learners have plural mindsets; they are curious and open to new possibilities and so they seek to connect, interact, exchange, and collaborate with different perspectives and a diverse range of people. Adventures bring strangers in strange lands together in open, peaceful exchange.
  4. Actively make meaningful connections. Meaning is essential to learning and supports a learner’s sense of coherence and safety. Successful learners make meaningful connections with peers and their teachers, between parts of knowledge, between new and old knowledge, and between “book learning” and lived experiences.
  5. Transformation. Learning changes the learner. As a result of learning we know, see, and act in new ways. Successful learners develop metacognition and agency to become lifelong learners, comfortable with change and multiple perspectives. They revel in the diversity and fluidity of experience and knowledge.

What is Teaching?

Teaching is an agile, reflexive process that engages students by combining subject knowledge mastery, pedagogical design, communication, and relational skills. Great teachers are great leaders who ensure that all students realize their potential. To teach is to:

  1. Be experts who care passionately about our discipline. When we have strong subject knowledge expertise, we come to care deeply about our discipline. Successful teachers bring a combination of expertise and passion that informs their teaching design, illuminates their presence in the classroom, and thus, inspires students. They offer students a model of what it means to thrive in this discipline.
  2. Design learning. Teaching is an intentional and structured process. Successful teachers begin with learning destinations or outcomes and design processes to help students reach these destinations.
  3. Care about diversity and learning equity. Differences are the keynote in classrooms; teaching and learning happens in a plural, divergent space. Successful teachers understand that all students are differently equipped by their given circumstances, whether these are social, emotional, cognitive, or physical. They, therefore, design inclusive or differentiated learning to help all students learn.
  4. Assess learning. We really learn when we are able to gauge how we’re doing along the way, rather than just at the end. Successful teachers make assessment an integral and on-going aspect of their design so that students are more actively engaged in working toward mastery. They also involve students in self-assessment so that students have agency and develop self-efficacy as learners; they learn how to learn.
  5. Connect with students. Students engage with learning when they feel safe. Successful teachers connect with students individually and as a group to build learning safety through a classroom culture of trust and respect.
  6. Integrate development of real world skills. We can no longer just teach content knowledge and skills. We are also ethically charged with preparing students to flourish in a complex and constantly changing world. Successful teachers do not see these as separate charges but design learning to integrate the development of these real-world capacities while leading students toward content mastery.
  7. Work mindfully. While we have a plan, we must also be open and responsive to emerging situations in class. Successful teachers are fully present, observant, and responsive. Because they understand fundamental pedagogical principles, they are agile in adapting teaching-learning processes as needed.
  8. Reflect and transform as lifelong learners. Designing learning and teaching responsively engages us in a constant transformation. Successful teachers practice active self-awareness or reflection-in-action. They are aware of and critically reflect on their assumptions, values, and beliefs and so are constantly engaged in self-development.Many of these qualities of successful teachers are also qualities of excellent scholars. This speaks to the notion of the teacher-scholar, someone whose values and approach to both scholarship and teaching are aligned.

How We Approach Teaching: Our Method

  1. Connecting Experience to Theory. We begin with you and your experiences to help you surface and examine your perspectives about teaching and learning. This provides a base from which you more effectively affirm, revise, and integrate pedagogical best practices with your own perspectives on teaching and learning.
  2. Active Construction or Sense-Making. While we use mini-lectures to present some material, for the most part we facilitate your engagement in active sense making with your peers so that you leave the workshop with a concrete understanding and ownership of pedagogical principles.
  3. Metaphorical Explorations. We often use images to explore teaching-learning concepts. Metaphors and symbols help us access or illuminate unconscious assumptions, values, and beliefs we have about teaching and learning. They are also a lot of fun!
  4. Principles not Tactics for Generative Teaching (aka teaching you to fish). We work with you to derive pedagogical principles rather than specific strategies or tactics. Teaching is complex; no two teaching situations are the same. Strategies that work brilliantly in one context may fail dismally in another. But, if we understand fundamental principles, we can “read” teaching-learning contexts and determine how best to apply these principles. Working from principles makes us more agile, responsive, and generative as educators.
  5. Reflective Transformative Practice. We ask you to reflect on pedagogical principles and practices to help you shape your identity as an educator. We believe this sets a foundation for developing a rigorous and life-long approach to teaching that is intentional, pedagogically sound, and student-focused. It also helps you develop and write a strong teaching philosophy statement.

In effect, you transform your teaching identity. Good pedagogy is no longer a set of theoretical principles but part of your beliefs and values about teaching and learning that you enact naturally.

Equity & Inclusivity in Education

There are many terms that have emerged from different disciplines and practices surrounding the value of educational equity in increasingly diverse and complex global contexts. Each term is complicated by multiple interpretations and agendas that have been attached to them. Here, we list and briefly define concepts and principles that inform the PFF program philosophy and approach at CGU.

Diversity – Equity – Social Justice – Intercultural or Global Competence – Ubuntu
Universal Design for Learning – Multiple Literacies – Inclusive Pedagogy

Diversity. The “sum of the ways that people are both alike and different. The dimensions of diversity include race, gender, sexual orientation, language, culture, religion, mental and physical ability, class, and immigration status. … While diversity itself is not a value-laden term, the way that people react to diversity is driven by values, attitudes, beliefs, and so on. Full acceptance of diversity is a major principle of social justice.” – From: Diversity Toolkit Introduction National Education Association

Equity is about fairness and must not be mistaken for equality in the sense of parity. AAC&U (2009) define it as “[t]he creation of opportunities for historically underrepresented populations to have equal access to and participate in educational programs that are capable of closing the achievement gaps in student success and completion”. – Association of American Colleges & Universities – Making Excellence Inclusive

Equity is “raising the achievement of all students while: narrowing the gaps between the highest- and lowest-performing students; and eliminating the racial predictability and disproportionality of which student groups occupy the highest and lowest achievement categories” (p. xvi) – Singleton, G., & Linton, C. (2006). Courageous conversations about race : A field guide for achieving equity in schools. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press.

Social Justice entails going beyond individual equities to recognize how social histories, processes, and institutional structures systematically create unequitable outcomes. (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2009; Cochran-Smith, 2004). Taking a social justice approach means recognizing this, critically reflecting on our own positions, barriers, and opportunities within social and institutional structures, and taking action to move areas within our control toward more equitable processes and outcomes. Cochran-Smith, M. (2004). Walking the road : Race, diversity, and social justice in teacher education (Multicultural education series). New York: Teachers College Press.

Intercultural or global competence is a life-long process of developing and adapting knowledge, attitudes, and skills that support empathy, flexibility, and adaptability when working with diverse cultures and perspectives. It is learning to know, do, and be in a diverse and interconnected world. This is important not just for developing career skills, but for democracy, peace, and a more inclusive global process. Inter-cultural competence must be intentionally developed, that is, through experiential and critical reflection. Deardorff, D. (2015). A 21st century imperative: Integrating intercultural competence in tuning. Tuning Journal for Higher Education, 3(1), 137-137. doi:10.18543/tjhe-3(1)-2015pp137-147.

Ubuntu. From a Zulu concept that a person is a person because of others so that being human is about recognizing the humanity of others. Identity is collective and connective and social action is strongly driven toward cooperation. Therefore, capacities for empathy and compassion are important. – Nwosu, P. O. (2009). Understanding Africans’ conceptualisations of intercultural competence in D. K. Deardorff (Ed.), The SAGE handbook of intercultural competence. (pp. 158-178). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Universal Design for Learning. UDL is based on neuroscience research that reveals variations in how we sense-make, construct knowledge, and engage in learning. This suggests that curriculum design must avoid a one-size-fits-all or monolithic approach. Instead, we should design flexible curricula by providing multiple means of representation (how we present information), engagement, as well as action and expression to demonstrate learning. UDL principles enable us to reduce learning barriers, increase learning support, while holding high expectations for student achievement. – CAST – Universal Design for Learning and Meyer, A., Rose, D., & Gordon, D. (2014). Universal design for learning: Theory and practice. Wakefield, MA: CAST Professional Publishing, an imprint of CAST.

Multiliteracies refers to our ability to create, communicate, and interpret meaning in multiple forms and modalities. Therefore, more than just reading and writing in the standard forms of a language, we must be proficient at sense-making and representing meaning in multiple modalities and forms – text, numbers, different registers and genres of writing and speaking, visual, audio, gestural, physical, movement, sound etc. Multiple literacies also include new or altered literacies from digital information and communications technology that create multi-modal meaning, combining different modalities in new forms such as online forums, social media, blogs, and websites. Our diverse and divergent global context also means that all meaning making and communication is context bound and subjective. Literacy and communication today therefore requires global or intercultural competence, primarily the capacity for multiple perspectives as part of the development of multiliteracies. – Cope, B & Kalantzis, M. (Eds.) (2015). A Pedagogy of multiliteracies: Learning by design. London: Palgrave.

Inclusive pedagogy. Diversity and inclusion are related but not the same. Diversity is simply a description of a social context defined by multiplicity. According to AAC&U (2009), inclusion is the “active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity—in the curriculum, in the co-curriculum, and in communities (intellectual, social, cultural, geographical) with which individuals might connect—in ways that increase awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions.” Inclusive pedagogy based on this concept of inclusion is intentional design and action in our approach to teaching and learning that ensure that ALL students have optimum opportunities to learn and flourish. Association of American Colleges & Universities – Making Excellence Inclusive Publications