I am currently preparing an application for a “teaching development grant” at my university.
The idea of this grant is to encourage instructors to develop innovative approaches to teaching, through a research project that will contribute to curricular development in their discipline and/or by undertaking extra training to improve their own teaching methods.
It is normal for primary and secondary school teachers to engage in professional development, but at university level it is more difficult to improve teaching quality through training. This is partly because academic culture tends to discourage any direct intervention in how people teach – the university classroom is somehow considered a very private space where instructors should be free from any kind of external interference (I will write more about “academic freedom” in another blog post.)
Through teaching development grants, universities can offer their academic staff members an incentive to engage in professional development without having to accept direct intervention in the classroom. By awarding the grants through a competitive application process, universities can also focus on the themes which they consider most important, and also monitor awardees’ progress towards achieving their goals.
The grant I’m applying for can be used to pay for a whole variety of expenses ranging from travel to attend training sessions, to the use of external research support services. Paradoxically, it can even be used to employ a substitute instructor to teach my classes while I’m doing the project. In other words, I can use a teaching development grant to get somebody else to do my teaching for me!