Below are links and information about faculty development and teaching resources. The Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology invites you to participate in all of the following programs and events aimed at faculty members. If you have any questions or are in need of any support please contact kele fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Achieving Your Potential
At the year-end retreat of the Faculty Mentoring Program, faculty from across disciplines and different levels discussed aspects of academic life that either maximized or minimized the likelihood of new faculty achieving success as academics. Approximately 70 faculty members participated in this event. The results coincided remarkably with those found in recent literature on mentoring. I am hoping you will find the following summary useful in helping you to help your new faculty achieve their potential.
Because the following comments have been compiled from various group discussions, some may appear contradictory. Other comments may not apply to all departments because of the inherent differences between departments, such as size or academic focus.
Reduced resources are the difficult reality at present. Surprisingly, the measures that help new faculty enjoy a “quick start” in their academic environment cost little: socioemotional support and clear, ongoing communications.
At the departmental level
- clearly communicated expectations and guidelines;
- introduction to the departmental culture – discussions concerning the relative values accorded to teaching/research/service;
- help early on in establishing individual goals and in setting priorities;
- frequent informal chats with the head — new faculty particularly appreciate a head who “really listens”, recognizes the increased pressures on new faculty today (such as increased competition for grant funding), empathizes with new faculty, “discusses” timetables, teaching loads, committee work, is open to negotiating; gives frequent feedback on the strengths as well as honest and timely feedback on any problems new faculty present;
- a head who knows how to give feedback in a constructive way (several new faculty suggested training for heads in this area);
- a yearly, more formal, documented interview with the head where clear oral and written feedback is given with regard to attainment of goals, strengths, potential problems;
- frequent and friendly social interactions with colleagues within the department;
- one or more mentors or trusted colleagues in the department who can inform on the tacit “rules” of the department and give non-judgmental advice on teaching, marking, writing grant proposals. In other words, peer support. Almost all new faculty questioned their ability to assess fairly their students’ work in their new department. Every university has different norms. It is extremely helpful for new faculty to see what constitutes a first-class, second-class, pass/fail paper or test in their new department;
- departmental orientation — new faculty often ”get stressed over the little stuff” – office set-up, how and when to use the photocopier, getting an e-mail address. Most new faculty expressed appreciation for the warm welcomes they received in their departments and effective administrative aid in the above areas;
- clear information on technological aids that are available and instructions on using them. Many new faculty would like advice early on on the purchase of a computer – what do they need, where should they purchase it? Could each department identify an expert in this area?
- introduction to professional organizations;
- reduced teaching load initially;
- a timetable that allows new faculty who live far from campus to use their home office;
- re-assurance that it is “safe” to negotiate with the head. New faculty are often afraid of “rocking the boat, the tenure boat”.
At the university level
- a mentor from outside the department, who will provide social support, act as an advocate for the new faculty member, introduce him/her to colleagues from other departments, explain the unwritten rules of the university, discuss teaching, research activities. Boice and others have found that cross departmental mentors provide added advantages to new faculty who often feel more comfortable making self-disclosures of failings and asking very basic questions with outside mentors than with members of their department;
- orientations – university-wide as well as within the department;
- teaching workshops – CTLT, the mentoring program, other resources on campus;
- improved facilities, buildings;
- funding – for grants, to attend conferences;
- interaction with “successful” people;
- administrative support and recognition that new faculty “are on a survival course”;
- spousal hiring.
Working with graduate students
- securing “good” graduate students;
- information on supervising graduate students.
Setting up labs
- information on hiring lab assistants or other personnel.
Beyond the university
- support from family, friends, colleagues;
- a life outside of work – family, hobbies, outside interests.
As can be expected, “what hinders” is usually the opposite of “what helps”. Faculty, in almost every small group discussion, highlighted the following hurdles. Again, these comments are not universally applicable.
Within the department
- lack of clear communications with department head;
- lack of supportive network for new faculty within the department;
- lack of information concerning the priorities of the new faculty member, technological and office aids, norms for marking within the department;
- “catch 22″: help the system, or succeed individually? Most new faculty want to provide “service to the community”, but receive conflicting messages concerning how much, where, when? New faculty are told by senior mentors to limit their committee work during the early years. How can new faculty say “no” to their head when he/she asks them to participate on committees? How do new faculty decide on which committees to serve?
- salary discrepancies – between information given when hired and reality after arrival;
- cost of living in Vancouver/purchasing a home/commuting distances;
- lack of material resources for basic work needs — chairs, telephones, voice mail, e-mail;
- lack of funding for research, conferences.
- lack of places to meet other faculty beyond their own academic disciplines.
Gender and generational issues
- too much committee work for women faculty;
- "gender politics";
- aging faculty versus new hires.
- too much focus on quantity versus quality;
- expectations for publishing not realistic given other teaching/service requirements.
University in general
- mind-boggling rules;
- variance in workload/expectations in research, teaching, across all faculties.
Mixed-messages concerning teaching
- Almost all new faculty spoke of the tension they experienced with regard to the importance of teaching. Many spoke of receiving mixed messages. Some heads stressed new faculty should not spend “too much” time on their teaching; yet the reality for almost all new faculty during their first years is that “teaching takes 90% of [their] time for an estimated value of about 10%”. What is the value of teaching at UBC? Most stated that in their first years at UBC their immediate concern was with teaching. They wanted to do a good job, remembered the teachers who had inspired them. For many, however, it is their first experience in the classroom and they often feel overwhelmed. They often experience difficulty determining the amount of material to include in a class, and worry about their marking — are their standards too high, too low? The time commitment for each new class is often 6 to 7 hours of preparation for 1 hour of class. New faculty also have questions about the amount of time they should spend with students and how this is viewed in their department. At the same time, new faculty are often told by their heads to get on with their scholarly work. Sigma Most faculty (and the literature) agree that it takes about 3 years for an instructor to become proficient at teaching a course. Many new faculty are not given the opportunity to teach the same course 3 times. Many lecturers are not re-hired after 3 years. Should this unofficial policy be revisited?
- learning to balance career goals (teaching/service/research) and career and personal life;
- ever-increasing stress, leading to poor health. The stress is directly related to the perceived lack of clear guidelines concerning the tenure process, uncertain job security (among tenure-track faculty, sessionals, post-docs and grant-tenured faculty members) and the rising “unrealistic expectations” on them;
- when to have a family – after 3rd year review? after tenure? after promotion?
- challenges for those split between 2 departments;
- insufficient support for faculty with special needs. Faculty from different levels and disciplines at UBC felt students with special needs received more accommodations than faculty;
- clinical faculty and their connections with the university;
- sessionals — their often tenuous situation, lack of career path, lack of recognition for their teaching;
- grant tenure faculty – fear for their future;
- high demands on women for committee work;
- high demands on faculty in small units.
Recommendations Made by Faculty
- improved communications at all levels in the university;
- explicit recruitment letter that outlines the responsibilities of both the department and the new faculty member;
- clear guidelines for new faculty – what are the priorities for them in their department and as individuals?;
- a clearly written reference guide for new faculty, sessionals and post-docs, written in user-friendly language and explaining the role of the Faculty Association – what they can and cannot bargain for;
- the various rights and regulations that concern new faculty, such as sick leave, holidays, maternity leaves, sabbaticals;
- formal training for new faculty (without prior teaching experience) in teaching and dealing with students (faculty who had attended CTLT teaching seminars spoke highly of them);
- special teaching positions, a reward system for those who excel at teaching and shine less in their research;
- training sessions for heads, division heads, associate deans, deans:
- in university-wide expectations on new faculty, such as workloads, timetables, flexibility. There was a plea for “standardized flexibility”. All new faculty would appreciate the flexibility that some departments accord their new faculty to choose – where feasible – reduced teaching loads and their timetables;
- in communication skills – some heads seem to have difficulty discussing with new faculty departmental and university guidelines and the new faculty member’s goals and priorities, or as stated above, in giving new faculty constructive feedback;
- improvements made to the situation of grant-tenured faculty members and sessional lecturers;
- mentoring within departments as well as university-wide;
- ongoing friendship and support within departments and across disciplines.
In conclusion, Kay U. Herr, in her 1994 article “Mentoring Faculty at the Departmental Level”, speaks of the need to “value and to nurture our human resources” and cites the clearly articulated components of a system developed by Stephen D. Roper, the former chairperson of the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at Colorado State for other chairpersons, that seems to respond to the comments made by UBC faculty last April:
- Provide the newly hired faculty member a clear explanation of what is expected over the next few years.
- Recognize that the transition from PhD graduate or postdoctoral fellow to a new faculty member is a major change.
- Protect the newly hired faculty member from an overburdensome teaching/service load in the first year.
- Provide appropriate resources as start-up funds.
- Assure the availability of assistance in writing grants and preparing publications.
- Monitor the new faculty member’s interaction with other faculty.
- Point out how a faculty member can obtain national visibility.
- Explain how and when tenure evaluation will be made.
- Recognize that everyone, but especially a new faculty member, needs to feel wanted and needed!
- Meet with the new faculty member on a formal and informal basis.
- Consider, if appropriate and necessary, the career of the new faculty member’s partner and the special concerns which women faculty of child-bearing age may have.
Questions You Should Ask
- What do you expect me to do?
- Ask your faculty committee
- Ask T & P committee members
- What is available to orient me campus-wide?
- What funds are available?
- How do I get tenure?
- What practical guidelines exist for me?
- What are the expectations if I get sick (or my child/parent gets sick)?
- What listserves should I belong to (and URL bookmarks)?
- What resources are available to support me re: equity, unfair criticism?
- Where do I get keys and how do I get parking?
- What is the performance appraisal system, i.e. nature, frequency?
- How do I get a mentor within my department?
- What are the safety regulations (fire, safety, WCB)?
- What are the resources and facilities for parking in university activities beyond my department?
- To whom do I go for help if I have a problem with my Department Head? (a safe person)
- How often are we going to meet and should I initiate it or the Department Head?
- How do I get Financial Advice to manage my pension plan?
- What about conference/travel funds?
- What about holiday time?
- What about housing plans/loans?
- What about long-term sick time?
- Am I responsible for covering my own teaching?
- Must I cover for others?
- What about support staff/secretarial time?
- Do I have a budget with which to work?
- What union contracts are we obliged to honour?
- What library resources are there? How do I get the library to order materials? To whom do I complain if my journal is cancelled? How soon must I order reserve materials?
- How do I order texts from the bookstore?
- Who is the library liaison for the faculty?
- How do I get e-mail/internet?
- What about personal security issues, e.g. working late hours?
- What about health/dental benefits?
- What about car pooling, ride sharing, and other transportation to get to campus?
- What committees should I belong to?
A suggested format for meeting with new faculty, including questions, explanations, and suggestions.
Some questions Department Heads may want to ask include:
- Salary/Are you getting paid? What questions do you have about benefits?
- Do you have satisfactory office & lab/space and equipment?
- Have you met other faculty?
- What do you need to know about?
- What is your research focus?
- Are you aware of grants for new faculty and mentoring opportunities?
- What questions do you have about teaching?
- What questions do you have about tenure?
- What questions do you have about summer teaching?
- What questions do you have about University facilities?
- What questions do you have about orientation?
- What questions do you have about mentoring?
- What questions do you have about teaching support?
- What questions do you have about student behavior?
- What questions do you have about the Equity office?
- What questions do you have about teaching responsibility?
- What questions do you have about marking?
- What questions do you have about committee work?
- What questions do you have about course preparation?
- What questions do you have about office hours?
- What do you need to accomplish your job?
- What questions do you have about Support for faculty?
- What questions do you have about Student advising?
- What questions do you have about Academic regulations?
- What questions do you have about Practical concerns – keys/parking?
- Do you know what to do if a book you want students to read is out of print?
- Do you know about the Bookstore’s course packages’?
- Are you familiar with copyright?
Suggestions for Department Heads' "To Do" List
- Create a “Who’s Who” list for new faculty
- Provide new faculty with an orientation. Important units on campus for new faculty include:
- Industry Liaison
- Research Services
- Provide sessionals with an orientation.
- Create a ‘to do’ list for new Faculty/Sessionals
- Obtain keys
- Obtain Parking pass
- Take new Faculty on tour of all the facilities within the department.
- Explain colloquia opportunities to new faculty members.
- Inquire if they are prepared to give a talk this year. Explain preferred means of ongoing communications with new faculty member.
Faculty-Graduate Student Night
Jointly sponsored by the CTLT Faculty Mentoring Program and FoGS, the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
At the Faculty/Graduate Student Night, the following questions led to animated discussions. The goal of the evening was to enhance communications between Graduate Students, Post-Doctoral Fellows, and Supervisors.
SOME QUESTIONS – to ask your supervisor if you are a graduate student
- What kinds of post-docs or other opportunities have your graduate students traditionally had?
- Will I be the one to present my work at meetings and conferences? If not now, when?
- How will you support my professional development in areas other than the laboratory work itself? i.e. will I get the chance to manage collaborations and develop projects?
The above questions were suggested by Cheryl Wellington, PDF, CMMT (Medical Genetics) for Faculty/Grad Student Pub Night, March 25, 1999.
- For what expenses will you take responsibility – office supplies, travel to conferences?
- For what expenses am I responsible?
- With regard to authorship on publications, is your name always on the publication? How is order determined?
- How will you use my data at conferences, in publications?
SOME QUESTIONS – to ask your graduate student if you are a supervisor
Goal: to elucidate the self-motivation, problem solving, and communication skills of the incoming person
Ask open-ended questions, such as: Describe the way you would prefer to handle submitting a paper. Tell me what responsibilities you would like to have and how you would manage these …
These kinds of questions tell you a lot about the person. Their skills can be trained, but their integrity and viewpoint (optimist, pessimist, problem solver, wallower, self-confident or self-doubting) are pretty fixed.
I think it is more important for a good fit between the philosophy of the supervisor/supervisee than any other factor, at least at the beginning.
The above is adapted from comments made by Cheryl Wellington, PDF, CMMT (Medical Genetics) for Faculty/Graduate Student Pub Night, 1999
SOME QUESTIONS – to ask your supervisor if you are a post-doc
- What kinds of permanent positions have your previous post-docs held? Academia, industry, or something new?
- Will I be permitted to take *reagents, projects, or lines of research that are developed within my stay here with me as I begin an independent career?
- Will I be expected to contribute to grant writing and reviewing of papers? If so, how will my contribution be acknowledged?
The above questions were suggested by Cheryl Wellington, PDF, CMMT (Medical Genetics) for Faculty/Grad Student Pub Night, March 25, 1999.
- Reagents can be recombinant DNA materials, or intellectual property such as knowledge on how to synthesize a particular chemical compound (and the compound itself!) etc.
In 1996 the UBC Faculty Mentoring Program held a Tips For New Faculty contest. Members of the Mentoring Program were asked to send in their top 10 tips for new faculty. Submissions came from faculty members at different stages in their academic careers, from new faculty to senior administrators, and from every Faculty at UBC. Nonetheless, several themes recurred: the importance of setting goals, achieving balance between work and personal life, documenting everything, taking a teaching workshop, talking to colleagues and finding a mentor. What follows is a compilation of the main “tips for new faculty” written by UBC faculty members and reviewed by participants at the April 1996 One-Day Retreat.
First things first
- Make yourself known to and develop a good relationship with the departmental secretary and administrative assistant.
- Similarly, introduce yourself to the services staff in your department.
- This is especially important for Science faculty who will need to “build” their labs and will need frequent liaison with departmental workshops.
- Organize your time effectively: use productive active hours for research and writing. Take a Time Management course if you feel you could use some pointers.
- Create a “tenure and promotion” file immediately. Keep duplicate copies of all relevant materials at home (your CV, annual reports, publications, teaching evaluations).
- Stay focused.
- Be courteous to everyone around you.
- Attend all the social functions in your Department. Isolation is often cited as a common problem for new faculty.
On Setting Goals
- Set explicit priorities early in your career. Tenure assessment comes sooner than most people expect. Don’t lose focus on your goals. Prioritize.
- Enroll in a teaching enhancement course, any one’s teaching skills can stand improvement.
- Provide full course descriptions for your students that outline course objectives, content, texts or readings, methods and evaluation. Provide sufficient detail on the nature of assignments, value or worth, and due dates so that students aren’t left guessing what you expect of them.
- Use a text processor for producing all course descriptions, reading lists, assignments, and handouts. It will save you an immense amount of time in the long run that can better be spent on other teaching and research activities. It will also facilitate future high-tech adaptations.
- Write course and lesson objectives in the form of behavioral outcomes. In other words, clearly conceptualize what you expect students to be able to do at the end of a course or lesson in concrete, well defined terms rather than in hazy, abstract terms (“list”, “describe”, etc. rather than “learn” or “understand”, etc.) If you establish clear behavioral objectives for courses or lessons then the rest of course or lesson planning will follow easily.
- Involve your students actively in the teaching/learning process; that is, encourage active rather than passive learning. Think of ways to involve your students in each of your lessons. It is better for students to assimilate and digest fifty ideas or concepts over a term rather than just passively record several hundred.
- Take the time to work out a marking scheme or approach that works well for you. An initial investment in time in this area can pay off a hundred fold over the years.
- Find out who the “effective” teachers are in the dept. and attend some of their lectures.
- Take a deep breath and relax before you start class (always try to keep the 10 minutes — or more — before class free from other commitments, to avoid arriving in class harried, irritable, out of breath, or whatever).
- Teach from your own experience instead of someone else’s (if you’re comfortable and having fun, students will feel it).
- There’s only time to address between 2 and 5 learning objectives in a single class — start each class by stating these 2 to 5 key points as the topic for the day. State them as learning outcomes — what your students will be ‘taking away’ with them from your class . These objectives will also prove invaluable when evaluating your students.
- In each course spell out the expectations you have of the students in the first class, reiterate them consistently at regular intervals and stick with them. Students do not deal well with surprises, particularly when related to their attainment of marks.
- Think of positive learning experiences that you’ve had, and copy them.
- If you want feedback from students, ask specific questions; instead of “Do you have any feedback?” ask “Are we meeting the objectives?” or, “List three things that are going well in this class, and three things you’d change if you could.” (I often ask this last question and have students jot down the answers on the + and – side of small index cards, so it’s anonymous, but I get a sense of how the course is going after about 6 weeks or so when there is still time to make things better.)
- Get your teaching organized. Discuss your teaching load with your Department Head and request not to have multiple new preparations during your first year's teaching.
- It takes three tries to “get it right” so don’t expect too much of yourself in the first year — address the major course objectives and it will be a little easier next year, and a piece of cake in the third year — almost boring, in fact; you’ll want to start experimenting a bit more just for fun!
- Don’t sweat the little stuff, and that includes hearing isolated complaints from individual students….you can’t please everyone all of the time, so listen to the majority, not the minority opinion. That means when someone says your question is ambiguous, you should ask for a show of hands and clarify to the whole class only if it proves to be a major issue. Ask the minority to stay after class or come in during office hours so you can address their issues without taking up everyone’s time in class, or skewing the discussion.
- If you can, avoid excessive class size (without teaching assistants), hectic teaching schedules, and over-preparation of lecture and teaching materials.
- Have someone from outside the department do peer evaluation of your teaching and get feedback from them. Remember the Teaching Support Group.
On Administrative Duties
- Avoid excessive committee & administrative work early in your career.
- DO serve on university committees; it is probably the best way, aside from CTLT and Mentoring activities, to meet colleagues from a wide variety of disciplines from across campus. Do try, however, to avoid being talked into becoming the chair of any committee!
- Concentrate on writing grants and writing manuscripts for publication, not necessarily in that order.
- Keep your academic work focused; avoid too many uncorrelated research pursuits; become thematic.
- Keep your nose to the keyboard and write, write, write.
- Keep your manuscripts in the mail, not the desk.
- Use whatever resources are available to advance your research, within the bounds of law, ethics and courtesy.
- Research and learn all you can about grant applications immediately.
- Specialize when it comes to formal research pursuits. Recognition for the generalist is currently absent, though we may hope that it will someday revive. Find an area that interest you and then develop sufficient experience and expertise that you gradually become recognized as a national and then an international expert in your field. Research funds go to those who have a proven track record in a particular area of knowledge.
- As stated above, create a “tenure and promotion” file immediately. Keep duplicate copies of all relevant materials at home (your CV, annual reports, publications, teaching evaluations).
- Document any sexual (and/or other forms) of harassment if you experience them. You may have to educate your colleagues on this one. Be prepared to take legal action if necessary. Make contact with the Equity office ASAP if problems develop.
- Save letters of thanks, supportive memos, etc., for your dossier or dossiers (to cover teaching, research, and service). You may not have to use this material, but at least you’ll have it should the need arise. Copy particularly noteworthy items to the Head, as they are received, for inclusion in your departmental file.
- Document your contributions as you go, highlighting efforts made to improve your teaching (e.g., indicate course changes you’ve made and why, what you expected to happen, what did happen, etc.).
- If you are having a difficult time figuring out what’s happening in your department or in the wider system, find help – the mentoring program is there for you.
- Choose a good, interested mentor and begin to build a good working relationship with him/her. Reach out to your mentors; we all were new at one time and would have loved some guidance and a sounding board.
- You may want to choose several different mentors for guidance in research activities or grant writing, for teaching advice and for advice on juggling your personal life and career. Try to find a mentor within your department.
- Seek the advice of your mentors before volunteering for every committee you think interesting.
- Interact with your colleagues; get familiar with their work and inform them of yours (these may be valuable liaisons and support).
- Don’t rely on your department to give you important information (e.g. writing examinations, examination policy, tenure procedure), find out for yourself from outside sources and clarify if you can with department head.
- You will be a more balanced person, and a better scholar, if you remember the importance of your family and a life outside academe.
- Don’t forget to take the time to enjoy yourself, — BC is a spectacular environment to explore.
- Maintain perspective on your life as a university teacher and researcher. Take regular breaks from your work, share time with your family or friends, take up some form of physical exercise, go for a walk, listen to music, etc. Above all else maintain your sense of humour.
On Promotion and Tenure
- Establish a good working relationship with the Head of your Department and put in place yearly reviews (even if they are not required by your dept.).
- Talk to other faculty members and establish whether there is any potential for collaborative research. Volunteering to give a seminar is one way to introduce other people to your areas of expertise.
- Get international recognition by attending conferences and publishing in international journals.
- Start to put together your UBC CV and Teaching Dossier. This is essential for tenure and promotion and it is a huge task if it is left until year 5 or 7 to begin the process.
- Read the general guidelines, but recognize that there are differences between academic units. Your unit may also have some more specific guidelines available.
- Identify what you do and do not understand from the available guidelines, then discuss and clarify these items with your department Head and other faculty.
- Know procedures (the application process, what happens, making an appeal, etc.) from the beginning. Be optimistic but prepare for the worst just in case (i.e., document everything as you go). Know what materials are admissible and build them.
- Carefully consider your suggestions for external referees (there is a lot of emphasis on their letters).
- Review other people’s dossiers (i.e. successful ones!).
- Ask the Head and others to review your CV well in advance. Don’t sell yourself short but construct the CV properly and don’t pad it.
- Read the University Act. Know the authority and responsibilities of the Head and Dean.
- Read the UBC Human Rights Policy. As a UBC employee you are expected to uphold it.
- Seek out information on UBC computing services, CTLT professional development workshops, internal and external grant deadlines and all UBC resources in general, ASAP.
- Avoid taking on more than you can handle.
- Avoid trying to change the world (dept.) in one day.
- Avoid getting too depressed if things do not work out - just look around you, then seek out your colleagues and talk to them.
- Avoid criticizing publicly or privately.
- Practise diplomacy when conflicts arise.
- Attend a workshop on interviewing skills before you hire your first technician, assistant, postdoc, secretary or even graduate student. This is a complicated business and it’s better to go into the interviews as prepared as possible.
- Take the time to read the Guide for UBC Faculty and become thoroughly familiar with your rights as well as responsibilities as a faculty member.
- Attend CTLT seminars and join in the activities of the Mentoring Network; it’s a great way to meet and observe other teachers on campus, and both are unbeatable ways to pick up new ideas for your teaching.
- Don’t get overwhelmed – others have been new faculty before and survived. You don’t have to be a perfect teacher the first year. Nor do you have to publish 10 times (though it can’t hurt); just show up, try to remember why you are there, listen to the students and your colleagues, and follow your feelings.
- Keep on smiling because others have made it and you probably will, too.