Now a mainstay in medical education, faculty development has created the role of the faculty developer. However, faculty development research tends to overlook faculty developers’ roles and experiences. This study aimed to develop an empirical understanding of faculty developer competence by digging deeper into the actions, experiences, and perceptions of faculty developers as they perform their facilitator role.
A constructivist grounded theory approach guided observations of faculty development activities, field interviews, and formal interviews with 31 faculty developers across two academic institutions from 2013 to 2014. Analysis occurred alongside and informed data collection. Themes were identified using a constant comparison process.
Consistent with the literature, findings highlighted the knowledge and skills of the faculty developer and the importance of context in the design and delivery of faculty development activities. Three novel processes (negotiating, constructing, and attuning) were identified that integrate the individual faculty developer, her context, and the evolution of her competence.
These findings suggest that faculty developer competence is best understood as a situated construct. A faculty developer’s ability to attune to, construct, and negotiate her environment can both enhance and minimize the impact of contextual variables as needed. Thus, faculty developers do not passively experience context; rather, they actively interact with their environment in ways that maximize their performance. Faculty developers should be trained for the adaptive, situated use of knowledge.