Using Dilemmas in Faculty Professional Development

Cathy Manduca, Carleton College & Jeff Johnston, Vanderbilt University

This session introduces the use of dilemmas as a tool for engaging faculty in discussions of the affective domain in their teaching. First we will spend time discussing and writing solutions to dilemmas that involve the affective domain. We will then reflect on our experiences with the dilemmas and explore how they might be used in our home institutions.

Five affective domain dilemmas

Description of the "Dilemma method":

Faculty are often unaware of the role that the affective domain plays in their teaching and their students learning. Dilemma's provide a mechanism for helping faculty to identify places where they have faced challenges that relate to the affective domain and provide a platform for group discussions of those challenges.

This method was developed in a 3-day workshop on the affective domain in geoscience teaching led by David McConnell, Tom Koballa, David Mogk and Cathy Manduca in February 2007. Ed Nuhfer and Jeff Johnston were participants in the workshop, and James Rhem furnished participants with published National Teaching and Learning FORUM issues that contained articles (created separately from this SERC workshop) on the affective domain. The method is based on the use of scenarios or case studies in teaching and professional development.

Use of cases for faculty development of teachers is not new. Anson, Cafarelli, Rutz, and Weis (1988) used cases to guide participants to reflective teaching in the late 1980s. For at least two decades, faculty developers have created "trigger tapes" that display a classroom dilemma for generating participant discussion and solutions. However, the case method has been developed to its highest level of sophistication as a formal pedagogy in colleges of business (Christensen and Garvin, 1991; Barnes, Christensen, and Hansen, 1994). Later, college science teachers began to recognize and embrace this pedagogy (Herreid, 2006; Yadav and others, 2007).

We called the scenarios 'dilemmas' because we wanted a carefully focused event where the faculty were not sure how to proceed. When we used other names (e.g. scenario or case study) we had less success in obtaining the kinds of descriptions we were looking for. If you peruse the collection of dilemmas from the workshop, you will see that even after we had discussed specific dilemmas, faculty found it challenging to focus in this way.

During the February 2007 workshop we used dilemmas in three ways:

  1. we asked individuals to write a dilemma they had face personally, their response and an analysis of the affective domain in this situation. These essays were submitted as part of the workshop application.
  2. We asked the group as a whole to read a single dilemma (which was presented by one of the conveners of this workshop); a panel of experts presented information relevant to the dilemma; and armed with this information small groups wrote a series of responses to the dilemma.
  3. We introduced an aspect of the affective domain; asked small groups to write dilemmas based on their experience; one or more experts provided relevant information; and small groups were asked to write solutions to dilemmas posed by other groups.

The workshop program from February 2007 workshop shows this structure and provides links to the presentations and the resulting dilemmas.

Workshop evaluations indicated that working with dilemmas was the most highly valued aspect of the workshop. In the words of one participant "[Learning] the importance of cases as a tool in discussing the affective domain [was the most valuable aspect of the workshop for me] People relate to stories; solutions to case dilemma seem do-able."

For the POD workshop, we have selected five dilemmas (above) for you to address in small groups. Each group will read and discuss the dilemma and develop one or more written solutions (to be submitted as Word files for posting on the SERC website with attribution). We will then ask each group to report out in 3 minutes. This will be followed by a whole group discussion of method and how it might be used in faculty professional development.


Anson, C. M., Cafarelli, L. K., Rutz, C., and Weis, M. R., Editors, 1988, Editors, Dilemmas in Teaching: Cases for Collaborative Faculty Reflection: Atwood Publications.

Barnes, L. B., Christensen C. R., and Hansen, A. J., 1994, Teaching and the Case Method: Text, Cases, and Readings 3rd Edition: Boston, Harvard Business School Publishing Division.

Christensen C. R., Garvin, D. A., 1991, Education for Judgment: The Artistry of Discussion Leadership: Boston, Harvard Business School Press.

Crosling, C., 2002, Supporting Student Learning: Case Studies, Experience and Practice from Higher Education: Case Studies of Teaching in Higher Education Series), New York, RoutledgeFalmer.

Herreid, C. F., (Editor), 2006, Start With a Story: The Case Method of Teaching College Science: Arlington, VA, National Science Teachers Association.

Yadav, A., Lundeberg, M., DeSchryver, M., Dirkin, K., Schiller, N., Maier, K., and Herreid, C. F., 2007 Teaching Science With Case Studies: A National Survey of Faculty Perceptions of the Benefits and Challenges of Using Cases: Arlington, VA, National Science Teachers Association.