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Making Relevance a Priority: Assessing the Needs of New Faculty. Catherine Schryer & Donna Ellis Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada 32 nd Annual POD Conference – October 24-28, 2007 – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Session Plan.

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making relevance a priority assessing the needs of new faculty

Making Relevance a Priority: Assessing the Needs of New Faculty

Catherine Schryer & Donna Ellis

Centre for Teaching Excellence,

University of Waterloo,

Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

32nd Annual POD Conference – October 24-28, 2007 – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

session plan
Session Plan

In this session, you will:

  • Learn about the challenges and needs expressed by new faculty members and department chairs at the University of Waterloo
  • Engage in discussions to share ideas about new faculty programming and resources and about our research tools
our local context
Our Local Context
  • University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  • 24,000 undergraduate students, 3,000 graduate students, 1,000 faculty members
  • Comprehensive university
  • Typical tenure-track load is 40/40/20 BUT we are a research-intensive institution ($127 million in sponsored research awards in 2006/2007) (
new faculty support pre study
New Faculty Support Pre-Study
  • Started NF-specific programming in 2002
  • New hires = 60-100 each year
  • Components:
    • September full-day event – orientation, lunch with Deans and Chairs, panel on success, BBQ with spouses at President’s farm
    • Lunch & Learn events – on research funding sources, teaching & tenure, and course evaluations
    • Website & Binder – resources to help with teaching, research, service, and broader community
    • Individual services – course design, course evaluation analysis, classroom management, teaching observations, etc.
new faculty support pre study1
New Faculty Support Pre-Study

Changes made before study:

  • New position – WatPort recruitment and retention coordinator in Associate Provost’s office
  • BBQ – moved to night before all-day event
  • Small welcome lunches in January and May
new faculty study methods participants
New Faculty Study: Methods & Participants
  • Received Office of Research Ethics clearance :
    • Run 8 focus groups (total n=32) with new faculty hired over past 5 years (duration: 2 hours each)
    • Interview 11 department chairs – selected based on: number of NF hired in recent years, length of time in position, and representation across 6 Faculties (duration: 1 hour each)
new faculty study focus group questions
New Faculty Study: Focus Group Questions
  • What do you think are the characteristics of good teaching?
  • What challenges did you face as a new teacher?
  • What have you done to develop yourself as a teacher since coming to UW?
    • Who helped you and how? What resources did you access?
  • What could UW do better in supporting you as a teacher?
  • What could the units supporting teaching development do better to help you?
  • What is the best advice you could give to NF?
new faculty study chair interview questions
New Faculty Study:Chair Interview Questions
  • What do you think are the characteristics of good teaching?
  • What challenges do NF face in terms of teaching?
  • What could we (UW generally) do better in terms of teaching support for NF?
  • What could the teaching centre do better?
  • What advice do you give to NF?
new faculty study activity for you
New Faculty Study:Activity for You
  • Before revealing the results for most theme areas, we will ask you to predict the key responses from NF and Chairs
  • Each side of the room will have a role to play (NF or Chair) – quick brainstorm before the results
what are the characteristics of effective teaching
What are the Characteristics of Effective Teaching?
  • Personal character traits – inborn characteristics, e.g., enthusiasm
  • Course characteristics – teachable skills e.g., syllabus organization
  • Learning – students actually learned
characteristics personality traits
Characteristics:Personality Traits
  • Chair – enthusiasm, organization
      • “If you have people that are enthusiastic teachers they may make mistakes, but if they work hard, they will overcome those” (C9)
      • “the notion that it is cute or eccentric (to be disorganized) is not acceptable” (C9)
  • New Faculty
    • “enthusiasm” (FG 1a,2b,3b,4b)
    • “approachable” (FG1a,4b)
    • “fair but flexible” (FG1b,4b)
characteristics course related
Characteristics: Course Related
  • Chair – planning, organization
    • “So when I am talking about being prepared, I am talking about both big picture prepared and having the mechanics of day-to-day down” (C10)
  • New Faculty – planning, organization, clear expectations, meaningful assignments, gaining students’ trust, ensuring they know why they are learning
  • Learning. Effective teaching means that students learn
characteristics they learned
Characteristics: They learned!
  • Chairs 6/11
    • “good teaching inspires students to apply themselves to the material, so that there is not an element of duress in self-motivated learning.” (C6)
  • New Faculty – understand where students are at, facilitate questions, convince students that they are intelligent and can contribute to field
what are the challenges
What are the Challenges?
  • Lack of teaching experience
  • Lack of local knowledge
  • Students – cause problems
  • Research-teaching balance (or lack thereof)
  • Infrastructure
challenge lack of experience or local knowledge
Challenge: Lack of Experience or Local Knowledge
  • Lack of experience – Chairs’ concern 6/11
    • “Rarely do we have people with real teaching experience” (C4)
  • Hardly mentioned by New Faculty
  • Need for local knowledge – huge concern for NF – level of students, dealing with student problems, knowing who to go to for help without being a “pest”, knowing how course fits in curriculum, figuring out technologies
challenge students
Challenge: Students
  • Chairs’ preoccupation: ill-prepared, demanding students
    • “they have to deal with what is popularly referred to as the ‘Millennial Generation’ which some of us prefer to describe as the ‘I’m Entitled Generation.’” (C6)
  • New faculty – almost no concern
challenge research teaching balance
Challenge: Research-Teaching Balance
  • Chairs
    • “biggest challenge is the competition between research and teaching” (C11)
    • “ institution does not value teaching…teaching is secondary” (C3)
  • New Faculty
    • UW does not value good teaching, although there’s lots of talk – not much incentive to be a great teacher – but there is to be good
challenge infrastructure
Challenge: Infrastructure
  • Chairs are aware about class size, poor rooms, insufficient technology
    • “lousy classrooms” (C1) “overheated” “poor sight lines” (C6)
  • New Faculty – all of the above plus –poorly trained TA’s, poor support re: academic integrity (plagiarism), little access to past course resources
what have new faculty done
What have New Faculty done?
  • Collected and used formative and summative feedback on teaching
  • Used teaching centre resources (workshops, observations, CUT)
  • Sought help from colleagues (attended others’ lectures, had mentor) BUT didn’t want others to know OR colleagues didn’t always know how to fix problems
  • Gave themselves some time
what support should uw offer
What Support Should UW Offer?
  • Clearly establish UW’s priorities regarding teaching
  • Provide teaching support
  • Improve university infrastructure
  • Provide local knowledge – mostly Chairs mention this here

“…how is the university going to overcome this conflict between teaching and research?” (C11)

support from uw priorities regarding teaching
Support from UW: Priorities Regarding Teaching
  • Chairs are aware of the conflict between teaching and research at the university level, many use a ramp-up model for teaching loads, and some recommend peer review of teaching and better rewards for excellent teaching
  • New Faculty were most focused on the teaching loads: “Communicate to students what faculty have to do” (FG3b)
support from uw teaching support
Support from UW: Teaching Support
  • Chairs
    • “We have to support them on the teaching side” (C1) – need departmental resources and programming yet unsure they can provide this
    • Teaching centre assistance (i.e., course design workshops) BUT better in conjunction with department to increase impact
  • New Faculty
    • Agree with Chairs: want a “lecture coach” and department help with teaching development
support from uw local resources
Support from UW: Local Resources
  • Both Chairs and New Faculty mentioned inadequate classrooms and scheduling difficulties
  • Chairs added what New Faculty need to understand about the students (backgrounds and Co-op)
  • New Faculty added concerns about TA training
what support should teaching centre offer
What Support Should Teaching Centre Offer?
  • Provide programming for new faculty – held jointly with departments
  • Identify or coordinate learning resources
  • Assist with interpreting evaluations of teaching
  • Increase awareness of what Centre offers – especially with Chairs!
support from teaching centre programming
Support from Teaching Centre: Programming
  • Chairs mostly recommended programming done in conjunction with departments (workshops, discussions, open classrooms)

“…focus on bringing new faculty together with people who have a proven excellence in teaching and a proven love of teaching…” (C7)

  • New Faculty wanted more specific orientation information and specific workshops (teaching large classes, academic integrity, getting tenure)
support from teaching centre learning resources
Support from Teaching Centre: Learning Resources
  • Chairs and New Faculty primarily focused on getting assistance with technological tools (CMS, repositories) plus having access to past exams
  • Chairs more focused on the investment of time needed to innovate with new technologies = resentment

“you learn some software, it’s just going to change in two years…what they want to do is teach” (C7)

support from teaching centre teaching evaluations
Support from Teaching Centre: Teaching Evaluations
  • Only mentioned for this question by New Faculty (Chairs talked about peer review in previous question)
    • UW should consider using a different evaluation form and different evidence
    • Teaching centre (versus senior faculty) should coordinate peer observations or even do faculty observations – seen as more objective
chair advice
Chair Advice
  • Have the right attitude
    • “So being a good teacher is determined by your enthusiasm” (c1)
  • Consult with your senior colleagues
    • “Don’t let things fester—see the chair… ” (C9)
  • Put a higher priority on research, but don’t neglect teaching
    • “for the next 5 years your job is to get tenure” (C6)
  • Know your material and be organized
new faculty advice
New Faculty Advice
  • Try to be a good teacher but not great
  • Get help – colleagues, open classrooms
  • Seek clarity in expectations
  • Research is what matters
  • Scads of specific advice
    • Be prepared, be aware of student problems and how to deal with them, pay attention to course evaluations, vary assessment measures
general implications
General Implications
  • Many chairs believe that effective teaching is related to personality; more NF see teaching as a set of strategies that enhance learning
  • Many Chairs point to a lack of general teaching experience as a key challenge; whereas NF point to a lack of specific, local knowledge being available to them
  • NF see “millennial students” as less problematic
  • NF receive mixed messages about value of teaching, but mostly hear that they should not prioritize teaching
  • Chairs offer general advice; NF offer specific advice – NF are quite “teaching-savvy” – culture clash?
implications for teaching centre
Implications for Teaching Centre
  • NF and Chairs want more department-specific programming – feel faculty will receive the message more willingly – but it’s unclear who will offer it
  • Chairs do not have a clear sense of what the teaching centre offers, so not able to promote us accurately
  • NF may not be confident that colleagues can help them – should teaching centre help depts set up systems for peer review, sharing of resources, etc?
  • How much can teaching centre step in when value of teaching isn’t on par with research?
discussion time
Discussion Time!
  • Discussion of Results:
    • What 1-2 ideas would you suggest that our teaching centre use to respond to these results (e.g., programming, resources, organizational development strategies, etc.)?
  • Discussion of Methods:
    • What 1-2 questions would you add to or delete from the research tools used and why?
uw s initial responses
UW’s Initial Responses
  • Hired two new instructional developers – faculty programming and consultations
  • Replaced orientation in Sept with 2 workshops (academic integrity and course management)
  • Added NF listserv and socials
  • Changing L&L topic areas: understanding students, assessing student learning
  • Providing more department-specific workshops through curriculum projects
selected references
Austin, A. E. (2002). Creating a bridge to the future: Preparing new faculty to face changing expectations in a shifting context. Review of Higher Education 26(2):119-144.

Boice, R. (2000). The new faculty member: Supporting and fostering professional development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Menges, R.J. & Associates. (1991). Faculty in new jobs. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Sorcinelli, M.D. & Austin, A. E. (Eds.) (1992). Developing new and junior faculty. New Directiosfor Teaching and Learning. No 50. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Whit, E.J. (1991). ‘Hit the ground running’:Experiences of new faculty in a school of education. Review of Higher Education. 14(2): 177-197

Selected References:
our contact information
Our Contact Information

Catherine Schryer,


Centre for Teaching Excellence,

University of Waterloo

[email protected]

Donna Ellis,

Associate Director,

Centre for Teaching Excellence,

University of Waterloo

[email protected]