Home About us Current issue Ahead of Print Back issues Submission Instructions Advertise Contact Login   

Search Article 
Advanced search 
Saudi Journal of Kidney Diseases and Transplantation
Users online: 1833 Home Bookmark this page Print this page Email this page Small font sizeDefault font size Increase font size 

Table of Contents   
Year : 2011  |  Volume : 22  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 90-96
Faculty-led faculty development: Evaluation and reflections on a distributed educational leadership model

Department of Medical Education, College of Medicine, King Saud bin Abdul Aziz University for Health Sciences, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Click here for correspondence address and email

Date of Web Publication30-Dec-2010


This report describes and explores the impact of a series of faculty-led faculty de­velopment programs underpinned by principles of distributed educational leadership. We aimed to prepare faculty for their roles as facilitators and assessors in a newly implemented problem-based (PBL) graduate entry medical program. We asked participants attending a series of faculty deve­lopment programs to evaluate workshops attended using an in-house designed survey. Overall descriptive statistics for all workshops and qualitative feedback for PBL workshops alone were examined. It was concluded that clinical faculty who are not specialized in medical education can offer high-quality, well-accepted training for their peers. Faculty development, underpinned by a distributed leadership approach which supports learning organization tenets, imaginative, flexible and democratic approaches to developing and nurturing expertise at all levels of the organization, is likely to lead to improvements in medical education. Despite the limitations of the survey approach to evaluation of faculty development programs, the information provided is useful both as a basis for decision making and program improvement.

How to cite this article:
Elzubeir M. Faculty-led faculty development: Evaluation and reflections on a distributed educational leadership model. Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl 2011;22:90-6

How to cite this URL:
Elzubeir M. Faculty-led faculty development: Evaluation and reflections on a distributed educational leadership model. Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl [serial online] 2011 [cited 2021 May 9];22:90-6. Available from: https://www.sjkdt.org/text.asp?2011/22/1/90/74364

   Introduction Top

Faculty development has assumed heightened importance in recent years and for various reasons associated with change in medical education will continue to do so for the fore­seeable future. [1] It is now generally accepted that educational training as an educator and preparing to teach in the health professions re­quires the acquisition of knowledge and skills that go beyond disciplinary expertise. [2],[3] Hence, faculty development initiatives designed to ad­dress acquisition of knowledge and skills are now offered in many healthcare professions.

It is evident from the international literature that there are often overlapping descriptions of faculty development. Steinert and Mann [2] des­cribe faculty development as, "A planned pro­gram or set of programs, designed to prepare institutions and faculty members for their va­rious roles, with the goal of improving ins­tructors' knowledge and skills in the areas of teaching, research and administration". Whit­comb [4] describes the goal of faculty develop­ment as to sustain the vitality of faculty mem­bers, both now and in the future. Furthermore, according to Swanwick, [3] faculty development should go beyond teaching teachers how to teach to include efforts to enhance educational infrastructures and build educational capacity for the future.

The associated challenges appear to require not only different ways of thinking about fa­culty development but also educational leader­ship. [5] The concept of distributed leadership is one such activity which is receiving increasing attention in the education improvement litera­ture. [6] Leadership becomes a process in which leaders are not seen as individuals in charge of followers, but as members of a community of practice. [7] Therefore, distributed leadership calls for all members of the organization to be ac­tive and accountable and involves shared go­vernance and a more participatory process. [8],[9] Furthermore, as schools engage in complex collaborative arrangements, distributed forms of leadership will be required to cross multiple types of boundaries and to share ideas and in­sights. [10] It has, however, been contended that distributed leadership is merely a theoretical tool for abstract analysis of leadership practice; [11],[12] but in terms of its practical application, there is little known about how it occurs and to what end.

The present paper describes and examines outcomes of a postgraduate medical education faculty development initiative that contributes to our understanding of how a distributed lea­dership model is applicable to faculty develop­ment in postgraduate medical education.

   Methods and Materials Top

The College of Medicine, King Saud bin Ab­dulaziz University for Health Sciences, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, adopted a four year problem-based learning (PBL) web-based gra­duate-entry medical program in 2004. The col­lege is affiliated with a large reputable 900-bed tertiary care teaching hospital and utilizes over 200 consultants from the hospital for teaching and assessing clinical competence. They have made educational leadership a significant part of our improvement plans and as a means of achieving our goals.

All faculty members engaged in the edu­cation and assessment of students were invited to attend workshops from 2004 to 2007. PBL and assessment were focused on throughout the four year implementation of this program.

PBL workshops

Design of the PBL workshops was based on the underlying belief that workshop partici­pants should understand the process of lear­ning being utilized by students, the typical roles and behaviors in the process, and the role and responsibilities of facilitators in guiding this process, in order to be effective educators. It was also anticipated that workshop parti­cipants would acquire a better understanding of differences between traditional large-group teaching and small-group facilitating. With these aims in mind, annual PBL workshop content included:

  • Rationale of PBL
  • Process of PBL
  • Who is who in the tutorial group?
  • Group dynamics
  • Assessment in PBL
  • Lectures in PBL

Assessment workshops

Six assessment workshops were conducted from 2004 to 2007. The aim of these work­shops was to provide faculty with an unders­tanding of the principles of assessment and pro­cedures involved in developing quality assess­ment items. Workshop content included:

  • Principles of assessment
  • Blueprinting
  • Writing high-quality MCQs A and R types
  • Modified Essay Questions (MEQs)
  • Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)
  • Item analysis
The planners of both workshops were com­mitted to employ instructional methods modeled on the kind of active learning consistent with concepts of adult learning theory [13],[14] integral to our new curriculum. Furthermore, planners were committed to providing opportunities for participants to discuss concerns amongst peers in an emotionally safe, nonthreatening envi­ronment. Program evaluation was considered important to determine the impact on faculty perceptions, as well as to assess the need for modifications to the program based on their input.

Evaluation instrument

A rapid feedback form designed in-house was distributed to all participants immediately fol­lowing completion of each workshop session to rate the quality of presentation, relevance, clarity of content and the expertise of the pre­senter for purposes of enhancing future pro­grams. In addition, a comprehensive question­naire was filled by participants to evaluate each workshop in relation to clarity of objectives, relevance, implementation, duration, quality of reading materials and overall satisfaction with the course. Respondents were asked to rate each statement on a Likert-type five-point scale (1 = Poor, 5 = Excellent).

Participants were also asked about the aspects they liked the most about the workshops, the general concerns they had about the topics, what take-home points they gained from work­shops, and areas they felt were missing or would like to see receive more coverage. Si­milar responses were grouped to identify recurring themes. In the interests of brevity, only comments relating to PBL are reported in this paper.

   Results Top

Over the past four years there were a total of 150 participants attending both PBL and assess­ment workshops, approximately 38 male and female participants per year. All participants completed questionnaires, immediately follo­wing workshops (100% response). Means and standard deviations for responses on session evaluation questionnaire items, 2004-2007 were generated using SPSS Version 12.

[Table 1] shows that participants were highly satisfied with the formal sessions provided in PBL and assessment workshops, and they per­ceived that their trainers were highly effective. Contents were clear and well organized; exper­tise of presenters was perceived very good as was the overall satisfaction with the value of the presentations to their learning.
Table 1: Evaluation of sessions.

Click here to view

[Table 2] shows that respondents were also highly satisfied with the overall organization of these workshops, quality of materials used to enhance learning as well as the facilities and general set-up of the workshops. A positive change in attitudes to the subject matter was perceived by most respondents and there was a perceived increase in knowledge. Almost all indicated that they would recommend the work­shop to others.
Table 2: Means and standard deviations for responses on questionnaire items, 2004– 2007, regarding
overall evaluation of PBL and assessment workshops.

Click here to view

Responses to open-ended questions regarding PBL workshops only are reported in [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5], [Table 6] and [Table 7]. Aspects participants liked best about PBL [Table 3] included the student-centered, small group, and active learning nature of the pro­cess. The fact that a clinical problem/case was the trigger for learning and that the process provided opportunities for integration of the biomedical and clinical sciences. Provision of challenge and stimulation in an interactive lear­ning environment were also the aspects that the participants liked about PBL. Concerns about PBL [Table 4], however, included readiness of our students for this way of learning, re-conceptualization of the role of the teacher and the need for good facilitator preparation, develop­ment and quality assurance. Main take-home points gained by participants [Table 5] inclu­ded the benefits of PBL, new educational con­cepts, methods and roles being applied by the College of Medicine and their relevance to clinical education. Areas which the participants wished to receive more coverage [Table 6] included assessment of PBL, planning and im­plementation including preparation of facili­tators, teaching materials and how to improve group discussions and communication skills of students. Reasons for recommending the PBL workshop to others [Table 7] included raising awareness about PBL, the fact that the work­shop was very practical, provided previously missing information and guidance for trainers about facilitation of PBL and their other edu­cational roles and responsibilities.
Table 3: Aspects participants liked most about PBL.

Click here to view
Table 4: Participants' concerns about PBL.

Click here to view
Table 5: Take-home points gained from PBL workshop.

Click here to view
Table 6: Areas that the participants felt were missed/would like to see receive more coverage.

Click here to view
Table 7: Why would/wouldn't participants recommend this workshop to others?

Click here to view

   Discussion Top

The primary purpose of the study was to assess the effectiveness of the faculty-led fa­culty development initiative, a model of ins­tructional development support that was under­pinned by this distributed leadership approach. Hence, our faculty were not appointed to a po­sition of educational leadership; they grew into it, and therefore, in this sense, educational lea­dership was located not in the individuals per se but in a community of practice. Gronn [15] des­cribes this form of leadership as "an emergent property of a group or network of individuals in which group members pool their exper­tise". [6] In this way, our clinical teacher leaders helped other teachers to embrace goals, to un­derstand the changes that are needed to streng­then teaching and learning and to work toward improvement. [16]

A distributed leadership model is likely to contribute to an internal capacity for develop­ment and medical education improvement. There is growing evidence pointing toward the im­portance of capacity building as a means of sustaining educational improvement. [17],[18],[19] Others have also drawn attention to the influence of context, internal and external culture on the extent to which distributed leadership can be achieved. [20],[21]

While distributed leadership lacks a widely accepted definition and the evidence base is still relatively new, 6, 18, 22, 23 a clear message emerging from the literature is that it provides a useful descriptive and analytical tool for thinking about educational development and leadership.

Our survey revealed valuable insights regar­ding the quality and effectiveness of our work­shops. Attendance was high and participants rated the expertise of colleague presenters favo­rably. The literature indicates that factors con­tributing to participation in faculty develop­ment activities include on-site expertise, super­visor attitude and institutional culture. [2] In ad­dition, recommendation of the workshop to others achieved the highest rating among par­ticipants.

Another outcome of this study was a per­ceived positive change in attitudes to the subject matter. This is an important outcome which has also been reported in other studies. [24] Through a process of acquiring new know­ledge, participants were given opportunities to examine/re-examine core instructional beliefs, assumptions and values. In this regard, it appears that trained faculty working with peers pro­vided a good opportunity for perspective trans­formation, critical reflection, and questioning. [25],[26] Contributors to the social constructivist, PBL and transformative learning literature [27],[28],[29] stress that learning is most effective if it is embedded in social experience and situated in authentic problem-solving contexts requiring cognitive demands relevant for coping with real-life si­tuations.

Kegan [30] argues that a transformation can occur when a person undergoes a process of ques­tioning personal assumptions, regardless of the outcomes in terms of changes in practice. How­ever, medical education evaluation studies are often criticized for not demonstrating impact. [24] In this regard, I suggest that changes in teaching behaviors and assessment practices should be the subject of a future study in our context. Furthermore, an examination of the factors within participants' clinical contexts, that may affect their ability to act on their new know­ledge and skills, will give further insights into the barriers associated with practice change. It is nevertheless encouraging to note that mea­ningful improvement in instructional skills can be maintained among clinical instructors after even a brief workshop. [31]

Quantitative and qualitative evaluation out­comes support the conclusion that clinical fa­culty who are not specialized in medical edu­cation can offer high-quality, well-accepted training for their colleagues and the faculty de­velopment initiatives contribute to organizatio­nal development by helping to enhance pro­fessional academic skills of clinicians who in turn have played a significant role in deve­loping similar skills in their peers.

A great deal more is nevertheless needed if both local and international faculty develop­ment is to be successful. Participant sugges­tions that will contribute to our future program enhancement efforts include expressed desires for ongoing follow-up training and support for new facilitators, assessment of PBL, and im­provement of students' communication skills. Future challenges may also be to ensure that faculty development is always a priority and that the potential released in innovations of this kind is utilized and channeled into wider forms of professional development.

Finally, it is necessary to acknowledge the limitations of this study. First, I have only do­cumented and reflected upon our institutions' practices that have contributed to and main­tained a distributed leadership model of faculty development. Without further research, the des­cription presented here provides only indica­tions of its occurrence in our context. Second, due to the relatively small numbers of parti­cipants, the survey findings may not be gene­ralizable to a wider population.

   Acknowledgment Top

My thanks to Prof. Mohi Magzoub, Chairman, Department of Medical Education, King Saud Bin Abdul Aziz University for Health Sciences, College of Medicine, who provided access to the evaluation data and conceived the idea of writing up the outcomes.

   References Top

1.Benor DE. Faculty development, teacher trai­ning and teacher accreditation in medical edu­cation: twenty years from now. Medical Teacher 2000;22(5):503-12.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Steinert Y, Mann K. Faculty development: principles and practices. J Vet Med Educ 2006; 33:317-24.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Swanwick T. See one, do one, then what? Faculty development in postgraduate medical education. Postgrad Med J 2008;84:339-43.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Whitcomb M. The medical school's faculty is a most important asset. Acad Med 2003;78(2): 117-8.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Davis J. Learning to lead. Westport, CT: American Council on Education. Praeger; 2003.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Bennett N, Wise C, Woods P, Harvey JA. Dis­tributed Leadership: A review of the literature. Open University, 2003.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Horner M. Leadership theory: past, present and future. Team Performance Management 1997; 3(4):270-87.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Senge P. The fifth discipline: the art and prac­tice of the learning organization, New York: Doubleday; 1990.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Dever JT. Reconciling educational leadership and the learning organization. Commun Coll Rev 1997;25(2):57-63.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Wenger E. Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization 2000;7(2):225-46.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Spillane J, Halverson R, Diamond JB. Investi­gating school leadership practice: A distributed perspective. Educ Res 2001;30(3):23-8.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Spillane J, Halverson JB, Diamond JB. Towards a theory of leadership practice: a distributed perspective. J Curriculum Studies 2004;36:3-34.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Knowles MS. Andragogy in action: applying modern principles of adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; 1984.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Kaufman DM. ABC of learning and teaching in medicine. Br Med J 2003;326:213-6.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.Gronn P. Distributed properties: A new archi­tecture for leadership. Educ Manag Admin 2000;28(3):317-38.  Back to cited text no. 15
16.Leithwood KA, Reihl M. What we know about successful school leadership. Philadelphia PA: Temple University Press; 2003.  Back to cited text no. 16
17.Fullan M. Leading in a Culture of Change, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; 2001.  Back to cited text no. 17
18.Fullan, M. The new meaning of educational change; 4th edition. New York: Teachers College Press; 2007.  Back to cited text no. 18
19.Hopkins D, Jackson D. Building the capacity for leading and learning. In Harris A, et al (eds). Effective leadership for School Improve­ment, London: Routledge; 2002;84-105.  Back to cited text no. 19
20.Bryant, M. Cross-cultural perspectives on school leadership: lessons from Native American In­terviews. In Bennett N, Crawford M and Cart­wright M, (eds.) Effective Educational Leader­ship. London: Paul Chapman Publishing; 2003; 216-28.  Back to cited text no. 20
21.Abzug R, Phelp S. Everything old is new again: Barnard's legacy-lessons for participative lea­ders. J Manage Dev 1998;17(3):207-18.  Back to cited text no. 21
22.Harris A. Distributed leadership and school improvement. Educ Manage Admin Leadership 2004;32(1):11-24.  Back to cited text no. 22
23.Spillane JP. Distributed leadership. San Fran­cisco. Jossey-Bass; 2006.  Back to cited text no. 23
24.Steinert Y, Mann K, Centeno A, et al. A sys­tematic review of faculty development initia­tives designed to improve teaching effective­ness in medical education: BEME Guide No 8. Medical Teacher 2006;28(6):497-526.  Back to cited text no. 24
25.Mezirow J. Transformative dimensions of adult learning, 1991 San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.  Back to cited text no. 25
26.Cranton P. Professional development as trans­formative learning: New perspectives for teachers of adults. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; 1996.  Back to cited text no. 26
27.Albanese MA, Mitchell S. Problem-based lear­ning: a review of the literature on its outcomes and implementation issues. Acad Med 1993;68 (1):52-81.  Back to cited text no. 27
28.Norman GR, Schmidt HG. Effectiveness of problem based learning curricula: theory, prac­tice and paper darts. Med Educ 2000;34(9): 721-8.  Back to cited text no. 28
29.Whitelaw C, Sears M, Campbell K. Transfor­mative Learning in a faculty professional deve­lopment context. J Transformative Education 2004;2:9-27.  Back to cited text no. 29
30.Kegan R. What "form" transforms? A cons­tructive-development approach to transforma­tive learning. In Mezirow J (ed.), Learning as transformation: critical perspectives on a theory in progress. San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2000;35-70.  Back to cited text no. 30
31.Notzer N, Abramovitz R. Can brief workshops improve clinical instruction? Med Educ 2008; 42:152-6.  Back to cited text no. 31

Correspondence Address:
Margaret Elzubeir
Department of Medical Education, College of Medicine, King Saud bin Abdul Aziz University for Health Sciences, Riyadh
Saudi Arabia
Login to access the Email id

PMID: 21196620

Rights and Permissions


  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5], [Table 6], [Table 7]


    Similar in PUBMED
    Search Pubmed for
    Search in Google Scholar for
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

    Methods and Mate...
    Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded566    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal