Individual Development Plans for Faculty

Individual Development Plans may be considered at the suggestion of either the individual or the chair or dean, for those faculty who would benefit from such plans. Here are some examples: faculty who want to change directions in their careers, who regard themselves as overdue for promotion, whose research agendas would benefit from reinvigoration, who seek preparation for administrative assignments, who want to merit higher compensation, who have not been satisfactorily productive for a noticeable period, or who have been rated low by faculty merit committees.

When an individual development plan is considered, the dean or dean’s representative should meet with the individual for consultation to work towards formulating an individualized plan for development, including guidance and assistance as appropriate. The Provost’s office should be drawn on for its experience, and the Academic Senate president is available to offer advice.

Types of Development Plans

Different types of development plans may be appropriate for different faculty. Sometimes the individual wants to jump start a new focus and is seeking support for a plan of action, and sometimes a chair or dean thinks that a person would benefit from a change in work activities.


It may be that, upon review of the record of an associate professor, the individual appears to have already fulfilled the criteria for promotion. If so, a dossier should be prepared for consideration at the department and school level, and should be submitted to the University Committee on Appointments, Promotions and Tenure by the next deadline for full professor promotions (October 15).

Annual Merit Review

Annual merit reviews should recognize and reward faculty who merit higher compensation. Meeting the expectations of an individual development plan can be an important factor in such reviews.

Changing Activity Profile

The Faculty Handbook explains that faculty should have activity profiles in which teaching, research and service add up to 100%.

The university policy on Evaluation of Faculty says: If the individual has been performing more or less teaching, research or service than is typical in the school, the chair, after consultation, may adjust the profile so that the total effort amounts to full-time service.

An individual who, for example, is performing less research than typical, needs a profile that involves more teaching or service in order to compensate for the reduced research activity. In setting the activity profiles, it is expected that there will be consultation between the faculty member and the dean or chair of the academic unit, and that the proportion of activity spent in different academic pursuits would vary with the demands of the specific academic unit.

The Faculty Handbook says that the average activity profile of a full-time tenure-track or tenured faculty member is approximately 35–45% each of teaching and research and 5–15% of service, and that actual percentages may vary. For example, there may be good reason that a profile allocates 70–90% to either teaching or research. (Nevertheless, the handbook states that each individual still is expected to make a significant contribution in each of the three areas of responsibility, and the Provost’s permission should be sought for any exception to that expectation.)


A successful plan to help the individual’s research career may require any of the following: various forms of support from the department, including perhaps a period of reduced teaching load or service responsibilities, opportunities for collaboration, or specific research mentoring. The dean or chair or senior colleagues may be able to define clearly for the faculty the expected pattern of research productivity so that the individual can be considered for promotion.


If the individual has been performing, and is likely to continue to perform, less research than is expected in the school, the dean or the chair, after consultation with the faculty member, should adjust the individual’s profile so that the total effort amounts to a full-time contribution. Increased teaching responsibilities should be assigned, unless major administrative responsibilities are appropriate.

The possibility of variation in the profile provides a concrete recognition that faculty often can better serve the university and themselves if flexibility in focus is allowed over the course of a career. Those who carry heavier than usual teaching responsibilities, and are highly effective in doing so, will be recognized for their contribution. Their annual performance will be reviewed in accord with the individual profile of what is expected of them.

The Faculty Handbook provides the following: Faculty are expected to teach courses that have been assigned to them by the department chair, after consultation with department faculty, on the basis of departmental or school needs. Teaching, clinical, and service assignments shall not be made for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons. Claims that assignments violate this or any other provision of the Faculty Handbook, other university policies, or provisions of law are subject to review through the grievance procedure, but contested teaching and clinical assignments shall be performed pending any such review.


Some faculty may wish to consider a period of their careers in which they take on administrative responsibilities substantially above the usual 5–15%. A school may be able to offer administrative assignments allowing the individual to make a significant contribution, and to acquire skills and experience preparing the faculty member for greater responsibilities.

Clinical service

For faculty in clinical departments, after considering how the individual may best make a contribution and after consultation with the affected individual, the chair or dean may make different or smaller or additional clinical assignments. If there is disagreement between the chair and the individual about the assignment, the chair or dean will also consult a standing or ad hoc department or school faculty committee, with the possibility of further review through the grievance procedure, but contested clinical assignments shall be performed pending any such review.

Transition to other activities

If faculty members’ interests have shifted so much that full-time university work is no longer being performed, the individual may wish to consider transition to other non-university activities, and there can be an agreed termination of the faculty appointment. Faculty may take advantage of the provisions designed to facilitate the transition to retirement set out in the section on Phased Retirement in the Faculty Handbook.

Change in Quantity or Quality of Work Done

It may be that an individual is not performing at a satisfactory level, but neither the faculty member nor dean believe that a change in the activity profile would be helpful. In such cases, after consultation with the faculty member, the dean should provide a development plan that clearly defines the expectations for satisfactory service, and offers help and support (of the kind mentioned below) toward meeting those expectations.

Follow-up for the Development Plan

Following the consultation with the faculty member about the individual development plan, the dean should send the individual a memo outlining the work expectations, including specific and concrete details. Under the policies mentioned above, after consultation the individual’s profile may be adjusted so that the total effort amounts to full-time service, and courses may be assigned that the individual is expected to teach. Annual follow-up memos should be provided to the faculty member from the dean to confirm that the faculty member is on track to meet those expectations, or to note that issues remain. If the individual is not meeting expectations, the dean should give him or her warning as provided in the Faculty Handbook if the level of performance suggests neglect of duty or incompetence. (There may unfortunately be some rare cases where disciplinary action is appropriate. In such instances, the Faculty Handbook provides that a faculty committee can recommend whether there is adequate cause, either serious enough to begin the dismissal process for a tenured faculty member, or not that serious but nevertheless warranting a cut in core pay up to 10%, to be reconsidered annually. Additionally, under the university policy on evaluation, if a faculty committee has made four consecutive annual ratings of not satisfactory, that in itself would strongly suggest cause for dismissal. Also, under the Faculty Handbook the dean retains the responsibility of considering whether to initiate the process for determining whether there has been serious neglect of duty or incompetence, justifying beginning the dismissal process of a tenured faculty member. Tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty are also subject to non-reappointment as provided in the Faculty Handbook.)

If the individual is meeting or exceeding expectations, that factor should be taken account of in the annual merit review and setting of compensation. The Provost’s office should be kept informed, and the Academic Senate president is available for consultation.

By working with faculty who would benefit from development plans, departments and schools aim to assist them in obtaining, as appropriate to the individual, more satisfaction in their careers, promotion, enhanced compensation, return to full-time satisfactory performance of their duties, or rethinking of their careers. Colleagues and programs at the department, school and university level are available to offer mentoring and support for faculty to assist them in all aspects of their work.

Additional References for Faculty Development

Center for Excellence in Research
Center for Excellence in Teaching

Mentoring Forum and Networks—to seek mentoring relationships, contact the department chair, director of faculty development, associate dean, or associate provost for faculty development
Academic Leadership and Development—see calendar of workshops at

Responsible Office

Office of the Provost
(213) 740-2101

Issued by

Chrysostomos L. Nikias, Executive Vice President and Provost
University of Southern California