Help Your New Faculty (Re-)Launch Their Careers!

As I relaunch this blog, I am also relaunching in other ways as well.

My family has recently relocated from our home of ten years to a new home in a new state. That means my kids are starting new schools and starting to make new friends. And my wife and I are starting new faculty positions at a new university. As my partner is starting a career as a newly minted Ph.D. on the tenure-track, I am relaunching my career from one of tenured full professor at a small liberal arts college to one of NTT teaching faculty at a large R1 university. And today I will participate in an orientation for a multi-section course (in a subject I haven’t taught on over a decade!) with new doctoral students, some of whom have never taught before. So, obviously, restarts and new beginnings are pretty salient for me right now.

In my previous position as a faculty developer, I co-led a new faculty orientation program and a year-long group mentoring program for first year faculty. This morning I’m remembering the excitement and anticipation of those folks, as well as their questions, concerns, and anxieties. They are very real in my home this year, as they are in the homes and offices of new faculty everywhere. Folks who are relaunching their professional lives, either as brand new faculty or as experienced faculty in new institutions, are relaunching their personal lives as well. It’s important, then, for faculty colleagues and administrators to make sure that they (we???) have the resources and support for a successful launch and a safe, productive flight into new skies.

Tanya Golash-Boza from the University of California at Merced provides the following useful suggestions in this morning’s Vitae (which, especially if you are new faculty, is a great career development resource to follow). These are easy things that faculty leaders and institutions can provide that can really make a difference in this crucial period for new faculty.

If you have additional thoughts or suggestions, please share in the comments! And do feel free to “relaunch” this post and the TPP in progress to the new faculty and faculty developers you know!


10 Ways to Support New Faculty

August 13, 2015

As we near summer’s end, many colleges and universities are looking for ways to support new faculty members arriving on campus. Administrators and senior professors often realize that the old system of de facto mentoring — with older faculty casually showing their new colleagues the ropes — has its limitations.

Institutions usually start upgrading their faculty mentoring in two basic ways. First they formally assign a mentor to each new faculty member. Second,they set up a series of workshops on how to be successful on the job.

The system of assigning a mentor to each new hire is an important baseline. However, it has some of the same pitfalls of the de-facto system in that not all senior professors are good mentors, and many times they do not relate well to the challenges faced by new faculty. And it’s unrealistic to expect one faculty member to meet all of the varied needs of a junior colleague. Likewise, workshops on “How to Write Your First Book” or “Getting Your First Grant” can be indispensable, but many new faculty need support beyond a few one-hour, one-shot seminars.

Those two approaches are certainly better than nothing. However, there are many other, more creative ways of mentoring new (and older) faculty. I offer the following list of 10, none of which cost more than a few thousand dollars, and some of which are practically free.

  • Organize family meet-and-greets in a campus gym.

New faculty with small children often find it difficult to attend an evening event, and are also interested in meeting other professors with kids. Organizing a family-friendly meet-and-greet in a fun place like a gym can be a great solution. Make sure there are organized activities for the kids or even a few giant yoga balls to toss around.

  • Offer small grants to junior faculty to travel for off-campus mentoring.

In addition to on-campus mentors, newcomers to the profession often need to build their network by finding mentors and advocates outside of their home institutions. Departments can help by setting aside money to help faculty members defray such travel costs.

  • Give small grants to new faculty to invite senior scholars to campus.

The idea here is to ask visiting scholars to critique the work of new junior faculty. This often takes the form of a “book workshop” where a new faculty member invites three other academics to campus to discuss and critique the junior scholar’s book manuscript. I know faculty members who have done that, and found it a very valuable experience.

  • Sponsor campus discussions of books on writing and good work habits.

There are tons of amazing productivity books out there that new faculty should read, such as How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing. Even better than just reading a book is to get together with colleagues to discuss the book. That not only ensures that the book doesn’t just sit on the shelf; it also gives people the opportunity to share pointers, work through challenges, and hear about other helpful books.

  • Reward stellar on-campus mentors.

As I mentioned, not all faculty members are capable mentors. By establishing a mentoring award, the university can both honor people who are good at mentoring and establish role models for other faculty who would like to be better mentors.

  • Create training workshops for faculty mentors.

Many faculty members have no idea how to be effective mentors, but they can learn. In training workshops, award-winning mentors can provide tips on their most effective mentoring practices.

  • Hold monthly problem-solving lunches.

A free lunch is an inexpensive, easy, and much-appreciated way to get academics together. A monthly lunch for new faculty gives them an opportunity to both make friends and talk through common challenges.

  • Organize writing feedback groups.

All academics need feedback on their writing. It can be challenging, however, to find people to critique your work. One way around that problem is to organize small writing groups with four members who meet four times during the semester or quarter. At each meeting, one person gets feedback on their work from the rest of the group, so hat by the end of the term each participant has gotten their work critiqued.

  • Organize writing accountability groups.

Writing feedback groups can be great when we need critiques, but sometimes we just need encouragement and support. Institutions can help faculty members by organizing four-member writing accountability groups that meet once a week for an hour. That helps motivate the group members to keep writing and also gives them a place to talk about productivity challenges and successes.

  • Provide a faculty-only writing space on campus.

Many academics have trouble writing in their offices because of constant interruptions. One solution is to create a quiet space on campus where faculty members can go to write. If the space has coffee, even better!

At many institutions, a cultural shift in mentoring practices is needed. A place that has long had a de facto or nonexistent mentoring program can be transformed into one where a positive mentoring culture exists. Mentoring programs will not be successful if they are “one size fits all.” However, by offering a variety of options, colleges and universities can support their faculty members and build community while they are at it.

Tanya Golash-Boza is an associate professor at University of California at Merced.

– See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/1097-10-ways-to-support-new-faculty?cid=VTEVPMSED1#sthash.5FJRJFtR.dpuf

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Have your students read your teaching philosophy? Get on the bus!

When we last left our heroes, they were discovering how “painting a portrait” of one’s classroom experiences with concrete details and reflective discussion can help craft a teaching philosophy statement that is attractive to job search committees and useful for faculty review portfolios.  But have you considered sharing your teaching philosophy with your students?

A friend of mine at Augie has often done this as part of an exercise at the start of the course with her students: she shares her teaching philosophy, which vividly uses the metaphor of the ’90s educational children’s TV program The Magic School Bus to describe her thoughts about ideal teaching and learning. Well, she’s like that.

She then asks students to draft a brief “philosophy of learning” statement, which gets students (most of them for the first time) to do some reflective metacognition on how and why they tend to approach learning the way that they do.

A research study brief published in the new (free!) online Faculty Development Today newsletter discusses a pilot approach to sharing teaching philosophy statements with students and assessing their end-of-course responses. The results are intriguing: this move can not only provide you with helpful feedback on your teaching, but also might encourage a greater sense of classroom community for students!  It’s worth checking out.  Maybe you’ll end up showing your students the inside of your magic school bus and take them for a spin!

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6 Reasons to Use Student-Directed Teaching Strategies

Faculty members traditionally develop a teaching philosophy statement (TPS) as part of the job application process, for tenure reviews, or to encourage reflection. In a study published in the Journal of Faculty Development, we propose an alternative approach—to develop the TPS with students as the primary target audience, distribute it to students at the beginning of a course, and collect evaluative data from students about its accuracy at the end of the course. Data were reported from three faculty members who used this student-directed TPS approach. The study revealed implications for faculty development and for the creation and use of teaching philosophies.

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Pass this post to a friend who doesn’t read this blog.

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In the wake of Memorial Day, my spring grades are in, I’ve bid some of my favorite students farewell as they collected their diploma, and I’m now happily sliding into summer. For many of us in higher education, while summer is certainly a time of rest and recharging, is it also often a time for reflection, professional development, and maybe some experimentation.

This June I’m teaching an immersive learning community and my first ever online course (I’ll blog more on that at a later date). Later this summer I will do some research writing, and prepare for a new position this fall — beginning with my fall sabbatical, I will transition into a new position as the Director of the Center for Faculty Enrichment at Augustana College.

So, a big part of my summer and fall will involve reading and thinking about faculty development opportunities: what my colleagues and I need, in what ways we can learn and grow as academic professionals… and how to encourage folks to actually come out and take advantage of the resources and ideas available. It’s a daunting and humbling prospect, I don’t mind telling you.

So when Maryellen Weimer from The Teaching Professor posted these thoughts on Faculty Focus, I appreciated the opportunity to share them — to encourage all of us to reflect on our work as teachers, scholars and campus citizens this summer, to look for opportunities for continuing development… and maybe to start a conversation.

I’m hoping to crowdsource, now: If you could have any sort of faculty development program during the next academic year, what would you like? Any especially desirable topics? Formats? Special events or programs? Please share in the comments at the end of this post… I need all the help I can get.
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Making the Most of Professional Development Days

By Maryellen Weimer, PhD

I am on my way to speak at another professional development day at a college. I do these events with misgivings—frequently persuading myself on the way home that I really shouldn’t be doing them.

Some time ago, a colleague and I reviewed the literature on interventions to improve instruction. If I were to do that paper again, I would pay special attention to those changes that improved student learning. The research we looked at then did not give workshops very high marks. If teachers changed, they did so right after the event, but soon reverted to their old ways of doing things.

A lot of workshops (mine included) have a kind of revival service feel to them. The faculty who are there care deeply about teaching; those who need to be revived don’t usually show up. So, the audience isn’t all that difficult to convert. If you’ve got an idea they think might be good, especially if it addresses a problem that concerns them, they write it down or key it in, often nodding with gusto and then following up with questions on the details. Give them five or six concrete ideas and they become true believers, whole new teachers who leave the session determined to lead new and better lives in the classroom. But it’s the staying power of workshop experiences that give me pause.

Even so, I’m still doing professional development days and here’s what I tell myself about why I should.

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