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Historically, the “development” of college faculty members has involved further learning in their academic disciplines (Gaff & Simpson, 1994; Lewis, 1996); subsequent efforts to enhance faculty learning have been informed by Gaff’s (1975) three-part model of faculty development. However, how faculty members “develop” as teachers is still far from clear. This study uses an adult developmental approach to understand and explore “the who, the self that teaches” (Palmer, 1998, p. 4) at the intersection of faculty personal and professional learning. This critical event narrative study of ten college teachers sought to understand how faculty members from 4-year liberal arts teaching-intensive institutions make meaning of their development. Through semi-structured interviews lasting 1 to 3 hours, participants were asked to identify key moments in their learning. Data were analyzed using a two-phase Critical Event protocol which focused on high points, low points, and turning points in participants’ learning and development as teachers. The findings were broadened through cross-case analysis and discussed in light of adult learning and teaching development literature. Key findings included the salience of several influences on college teacher learning and development: prior teaching experience in various contexts, experiences of fit or lack of fit, context challenges or changes in teaching context; mental models of teaching/observation of teachers across educational experiences; participants’ experiences as students; teaching mentors; and informal learning interactions with colleagues. The findings lend support to the salience of social cognitive and situated learning theories for adults yet emphasize the relational component of such learning. The study has implications for adult learning, faculty/academic developers, and higher education administrators.



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