It seems as though every college campus has one: that disengaged, disaffected professor who is more interested in pursuing his own research than he is in actually teaching the students who gather there each day. Unfortunately, all too many college professors and other instructors struggle to remain engaged with their students and interested in their daily responsibilities. Disengaged professors lead to disinterested students who are less likely to succeed. Engaged professors, on the other hand, are more likely to care about their students, go the extra mile to help them succeed, and provide them with the tools they need to make the most of their education. The question, then, becomes how to further faculty engagement.

Lack of Input
When the time comes to develop new policies, decide how classes will be structured for the next year, and even determine class size, how much input do professors really have in the process? Are decisions handed down from the head of each department or from the college board, or do professors get the chance to make key decisions? A simple survey can be enough to give professors a stronger feeling that their opinions matter. Professors, like other professionals, are more likely to be fully invested in their jobs when they believe that their opinions are being heard and that they have a voice, not just to their students, but before the college as a whole.

Replaceable or Not?
Just as professors need to believe that their voices and their opinions matter, they also need to trust that they matter as individuals. When they reach college, many students assume they’re responsible for taking command of their own learning–and that professors are incidental to the process. Professor attention and interaction, however, can have a substantial impact on the level of student success. Students who interact with their professors are less likely to drop out and more likely to achieve high-level scores on projects, tests, and quizzes. A good professor can help bolster a struggling student, talk down a conceited one and deliver a stirring message that reaches a large percentage of the class–all within a single hour. A professor like that isn’t replaceable, and it’s important that they know it.

Recognizing professors for their contribution is the next key step in furthering their engagement. When they feel important, they will be more likely to act important. Not sure where to start? Try administering a survey or taking a poll to determine what professors really want to see from their schools. It’s not just about vacation time, benefits, and the other offerings that they give so much attention. It’s about appreciating their efforts and letting them know that they’re an important part of the college team.

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