Educating the Educators

Ryan Jarvi

Most professions have continuing education requirements that individuals must complete every few
years to stay on top of changes in their fields or to keep their certifications.

In the state of Michigan, those in the mental health professions typically have the more demanding
CE requirements.

Dentists have to complete 60 hours of CE every three years, and doctors, in the same amount of
time, have to complete at least 150 hours of continuing education in order to renew their licenses.

Other fields outside of health professions, such as law, also have continuing education
requirements—though Michigan is currently among the handful of U.S. states without any for

For K-12 teachers, it varies slightly by what type of teaching certificate is held, but generally
teaching professionals are required to complete 180 hours of State Continuing Educational Clock
Hours (SCECHs) every three to five years—or six semester hours in a planned course of study at an
approved EPI (Educator Preparation Institute) or accredited college or university (one credit hour
equaling 30 SCECHs).

Expectations for teaching professionals at the university level, however, are very different.

“No, there’s no specific requirement,” said Gary Stark, associate dean of Grand Valley State
University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Is there an expectation? Yes.”

Stark said certain faculty members who are practicing professionals must meet requirements to be
licensed in their fields, but there aren’t any continuing education (CE) requirements that must be
met for faculty to continue teaching.

“We don’t have requirements, but we have expectations,” Stark said regarding teaching methods.
“There are some areas in the university where they may have to get reaccredited…(but) our faculty,
and in fact at most universities, are supposed to be engaged in scholarship.”

Scholarship can include, among other things, material published, grants received, honors awarded,
works performed or service to the public.

“Every department has a written set of expectations,” Stark said. “Scholarship can take many

Scholarship can also include conducting new research that would require a faculty member to be
familiar with recently published articles, which helps keep them up-to-date in their fields, Stark

“It’s sort of an expectation that you are continually learning and reflecting and incorporating new
findings into your classes,” said Christine Rener, director of the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning
Center at GVSU.

Attempting to document whether faculty members are up-to-date in their fields is the hard part.

“Taking a large number of continuing education courses is not directly correlated to improved
student learning,” Rener said. “It’s more complicated than that.”

Barb Hooper, professor of nursing at GVSU, is also a registered nurse and has to complete 25 hours
of CE requirements to renew her nursing license every two years.

“I can’t speak for all faculty because I don’t know enough about the other professions,” Hooper
said. “(But) in regard to nursing, I’m glad that we have continuing education requirements because
our field is changing so rapidly.”

Hooper said she thinks that one of the reasons the Michigan Board of Nursing implemented CE
requirements in the profession is because it is a “lifelong learning” process.

“If I taught ancient history, I don’t know how much that is changing,” Hooper said. “But does that
mean that (faculty) can’t be learning about new teaching methods?”

Though GVSU doesn’t require faculty to complete a set number of CE hours or credits, Hooper said
she believes learning new teaching methods is encouraged on campus.

“The university is very committed to helping us grow and looking at developing methods for
teaching,” Hooper said, mentioning the services provided by the Pew FTLC.

This aspect of professors’ career development is scrutinized when they attempt to rise in the
university system.

When a faculty member is up for promotion, tenure or contract renewal, that faculty member’s
department reviews her or his portfolio of work.

“Everyone in the department, all the regular faculty, look at a person that’s up for contract renewal
and take a vote,” which is a form of peer-review for that faculty member, Stark said. “They put
together a dossier, a portfolio of all their work—teaching evaluations from students, comments
from other teachers who watched them teach.”

The committee also looks at whether the faculty member met the service expectations by serving
on campus committees or participating in campus events. The faculty member’s scholarship
activities are also considered, which can vary from discipline to discipline as grants may be more
important in some fields and published research in others.

After the department reviews the faculty member’s portfolio, it goes through review at the college
level and the same areas are examined.

To help professors enrich their scholarship and pedagogy, the FTLC does offer workshops and
grants to fund research or attend conferences, which are important ways for faculty to stay current
on developments in their fields, Rener said.

“What faculty do to stay current in their field is not take classes per se, but it’s more independently
driven,” Rener said. “It is related to research in part, but also the continuous improvement of their
teaching and curriculum is sort of built into what we do.”

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