New Faculty Orientation Guide

The New Faculty Orientation Guide is intended to be a starting point—a helpful collection of materials most commonly of interest to new faculty in their first year of teaching at UBC. Topics include:

  • understanding who your learners are
  • challenges you and your learners may face
  • considerations for the first day of class
  • assessing learning and giving feedback
  • pedagogical approaches with learning technology tools and much more!

Review the guide below or download the 2018/19 New Faculty Orientation Guide (PDF)


01  |  Get Started

As a new UBC faculty member, your early days and weeks will be both energizing and overwhelming. As you prepare to teach new classes, meet new colleagues and familiarize yourself with the UBC campus, you will inevitably experience moments that are both rewarding and perplexing. In order to help facilitate your transition, we have created this guide as a “first step” resource for you.

This 2018/2019 guide is not a comprehensive compilation of all policies and documents that apply to new faculty, nor is it a repository of all information that could potentially be useful to new faculty. Rather, the guide is intended to be a starting point—a helpful collection of materials most commonly of interest to new faculty in their first year of teaching at UBC. When possible, links are provided to the websites of other resources and service units at UBC that may offer additional information and assistance on your journey.

Some of the topics we touch on in this guide include:

  • Understanding who your learners are
  • Challenges you and your learners may face
  • Considerations for the first day of class
  • Assessing learning and giving feedback
  • Pedagogical approaches with learning technology tools and much more!

No matter where you are in the cycle of your course, you can quickly navigate this guide to find what you need.

Educational leadership is a key component of the role of faculty in the Educational Leadership Stream, and is also relevant to faculty in the Professoriate Stream and to Lecturers.

Educational leadership may be thought of as impact of teaching and learning beyond one’s own classroom. The Collective Agreement defines it as, “activity taken at UBC and elsewhere to advance innovation in teaching and learning with impact beyond one’s classroom” (Article 4.04). Educational leadership activities include, but are not limited to, contributions to curriculum, activities that advance equity and inclusion in teaching and learning, formal teaching related leadership responsibilities within your Department/Program/Faculty and engagement in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

CTLT has a number of resources to support how you think about and track the evidence and impact of your educational leadership activities. For more information, visit our website or email us at

If you are in the Educational Leadership Stream and joining UBC’s teaching and learning community, we encourage you to join the Educational Leadership Network, a community of Instructors, Senior Instructors and Professors of Teaching. For more information, please visit UBC Educational Leadership Network.


Marcello Pavan, PhD Sessional Lecturer
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Faculty of Science

In summer 2011, UBC Physics and Astronomy approached me to teach the Physics 100 course. I taught laboratory courses there before, but never a big lecture course, so to say I was nervous would be an understatement. Fortunately, UBC set me up to succeed, first with the department asking me to give a practice lecture to their teaching subcommittee, and then with the support of colleagues in the (then) Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative and CTLT. By the time it came to teach, I felt ready to go. Then of course the realization that things were harder than first thought set in, but the continued support of colleagues and CTLT has sustained me. Now I can’t wait to face those students again every September!


02  |  Classroom Climate and UBC Vancouver

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Classroom climate is an important consideration because it invites us to consider additional layers of context for situating complex classroom situations. UBC’s Vancouver campus has a multilayered and complex history. This is mirrored by the diversity of perspectives and experiences that exist on this campus. For this reason, UBC classrooms are not static and neutral spaces; rather, they continue to be multidimensional and dynamic spaces where complex interactions occur through the diversity of identities, modes of delivery and places of learning. In her book, How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching, Susan Ambrose and her colleagues define classroom climate as “the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical environments in which our students learn.” Different aspects of the classroom climate and student development—intellectual and social identity development in particular—interact with each other to have an impact on student learning, experience and performance.

The historical setting of a classroom can inform and guide the ways students learn from the institutional contexts surrounding the classroom. UBC’s Vancouver campus is located on the traditional, ancestral and unceded lands of the Musqueam people, which informs the history and fabric of learning here. The role of the instructor is an integral part of the classroom climate framework because the instructor models ways to engage with concepts, histories and intersecting layers that challenge and add to the way that we understand and have come to know our respective disciplines, the lands we are learning on and the relationships that exist.

As an instructor, you have the ability to design, conceptualize and integrate aspects of classroom climate into your practice through the approaches you take in your curriculum and the learning environment you create. In this guide, you can explore ways to do this as early as the first day of class (see Section 4: First Day of Class).

The following is a list of resources that may help you explore the topic of Classroom Climate:

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Acknowledging Musqueam territory or the Indigenous territories within or surrounding your institution is a way to invite further conversations around classroom climate. Including a territory acknowledgement on your syllabus and inviting conversations on the first day and throughout your course mirrors the history and contemporary relationships of where you are teaching and also the diversity of perspectives and ideas that continue to exist here.
John Paul (JP) Catungal, Instructor

Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice

I have come to appreciate the classroom as embedded in larger historical and political contexts, where we, as teachers and students, meet not as blank slates, but as complicated and differently positioned subjects.

I am teaching a fourth-year seminar this term that specifically looks at the politics of the university. In this seminar, we will reflect as a learning community on a variety of topics, including UBC’s location on unceded Musqueam territory, questions of positionality and accessibility and why they matter for how we experience the university.

Excessive emotions, such as anger, are particularly challenging for classroom spaces—challenging because they force us to acknowledge that trust, belonging and community in learning relationships and spaces are never a guarantee and, in fact, take constant tending. These excessive emotions are also challenging in a second way, which is that, in some classrooms, they arise out of social structural dynamics—e.g., misogyny, racism, colonialism, homophobia—that may or may not be the central focus of a course, but that nevertheless exist in classroom spaces through the very bodies and minds that are in these spaces.


03  |  Student Success

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Academic success is certainly a major aspect of student success, but it is not only about students' intellectual development. Student success is intricately linked with their personal growth, such as developing a sense of who they are, and their learning experiences in non-intellectual domains, such as social, emotional and physical domains (Ambrose et al., 2010). As a faculty member, you can do so much more than teaching the course content to support your students in achieving their full potential.

In your role as an instructor, you have the ability to create a learning environment that supports students not only intellectually but holistically. Studies show that students’ sense of belonging and growth mindset have important implications for their academic success (Dweck et al., 2014). Students feel more intrinsically motivated to learn when they find the subject matter interesting, relevant or meaningful to them. For example, you can enhance students’ sense of belonging and motivation by presenting multiple and diverse examples to explain a concept so that students of different backgrounds and identities can see themselves or their life experiences reflected. In addition, you can convey your high expectations and belief that all students can develop their abilities to succeed in the course. When students receive the necessary support to grow and learn, they persist and thrive.

To support student success, use learner-centred teaching strategies that respond to students’ varied learning needs. To do so, it is important to try to get to know your students. For example, you can spend some time on the first day of class or in each class to get to know your students, conduct a survey to understand their individual strengths and needs, and develop a sense of community to promote social belonging among the students (see page 28 for suggested strategies). In addition, to ensure every student can engage with the course in a way that meets their learning needs, you can engage with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in your course design. UDL is an educational framework that guides the development of flexible learning environments that can integrate individual learning differences. Moreover, you can introduce resources, such as the UBC Learning Commons, to help students develop foundational skills for learning, such as note taking and time management. network. Openness about the challenges you face and involvement of students in broader dialogues with your peers help assimilate students into the professional culture and broaden their learning experiences.

Supervising Grad Students

To support student success, use learner-centred teaching strategies that respond to students’ varied learning needs. To do so, it is important to try to get to know your students. For example, you can spend some network. Openness about the challenges you face and involvement of students in broader dialogues with your peers help assimilate students into the professional culture and broaden their learning experiences.

A Word on Wellbeing

Academic careers are demanding and faculty undergo many stresses, which can result in depression, anxiety and burnout. Focusing on your personal health can benefit your own wellbeing and that of your colleagues and students. Connections you forge with your colleagues and peers can be invaluable to your wellbeing and to your development as a faculty member. UBC offers support for faculty and opportunities to network with peers through the UBC Wellbeing Initiative , the Coaching @UBC program, various fitness programs , CTLT’s programs and events and more.


The following is a list of resources that may help support students’ success:

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Student success is not only about academic success. Support the student as a whole person.
Dana Devine, PhD Professor and Graduate Studies Program Director

Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Faculty of Medicine

It’s my role to help my graduate students be the best people that they can be. This involves much more than learning how to do good science. We must encourage our students to be engaged citizens of the world. This involves ensuring they get out of the lab and classroom and do more than their degree requirements: engage with nature, be physically active, create and grow personally. We owe our students the latitude to take advantage of the many programs that UBC offers to graduate students to help them develop skills that will be valuable in more than just campus life. Graduate school is hard and students must be both intellectually challenged and emotionally supported. My hopes for the graduate students I mentor are that they leave UBC as well-trained scientists who are honest and open communicators, societally engaged and unafraid to care about other people. These are the graduate students who will change the world.


04  |  First Day of Class

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The first day of class is your time to shine! Whether you are teaching for the very first time or are a seasoned veteran, prepare carefully for the initial class. Your preparation and attitude are contagious: students will pick up on your excitement, be more likely to commit to your class and invest greater energy to their learning.

What you do and how you do it on the first day of class matters. When your students come to the first class, they are eager to know what will be taught in the course, what you will be like as an instructor, what will be required of them, how you will evaluate their work and whether they are likely to feel welcome in your class. The first day of class should serve two purposes: 1. To clarify questions students might have related to the overall course and course objectives, as well as your expectations for their performance in class. Students should leave the first meeting with a strong belief in your competence to teach the course and truly understand what is required of them in your course. 2. To give you an understanding of who is taking your course and what their expectations are of you as the instructor.

Check out these six strategies to prepare yourself and your students for the first day of class.
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The following is a list of resources that may help you create an engaging, motivating and organized first day of class:

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End your class on time! UBC is a large campus—it may take your students 15 minutes to walk between classes.

Gail Hammond, PhD, RD

Instructor, Food, Nutrition and Health, Department of Land and Food Systems

When getting ready to start a new class, my mind always goes to the students: who are they? What life experiences do they bring to class? Why are they taking the course? What piques their interest about nutrition? How do they like to learn? Will they value self-regulated learning activities as much as I do? The questions go on and on, but all this to say expect the unexpected! There is great diversity to manage within each class as the students turn to you to guide them on their journey of learning. So, put your hand on the rudder and get ready to sail!

When opening the classroom door, I am excited to meet the students—the lifeblood of the course. Once inside the classroom, I like to engage them in an activity so they can know a little bit about their neighbours, the TAs and me. Fostering an open and inclusive environment on day one of the term—a simple technique is to ask questions that tie course concepts into their personal lives—sets the tone for the remainder of the course. Enjoy the sail!


05  |  Evaluation of Teaching

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In your role as an instructor, you will partake in various forms of evaluation, namely, the Student Evaluations of Teaching (SEoT), the teaching dossier and the peer review of teaching. Some of these evaluations may be informal, and focussed on your professional growth in teaching, and others are formal, or for evaluation purposes.

Student Evaluation of Teaching

In May 2007, the UBC Senate approved a policy on Student Evaluation of Teaching. The policy requires every course section or learning experience to be evaluated by students each time it is offered. SEoT is administered online and students are encouraged to provide their feedback for each course they take. Data from these online surveys may be used to reflect on your teaching. For more information on SEoT at UBC, please visit

Teaching Dossier

The teaching dossier is a record of your teaching experiences, abilities, beliefs and accomplishments. According to Pelger and Larsson, a strong dossier is selective and comprised of documents that are representative of your teaching practice and that reflect your goals and values. It combines narrative descriptions with sample teaching materials (e.g., syllabi, assignments, feedback to students) and factual information (e.g., lists of courses taught, results from the SEoT) to provide a snapshot of you as an instructor. It also identifies areas of growth.

Peer Review of Teaching

The peer review of teaching (also called the peer observation of teaching) is a form of evaluation designed to provide feedback to instructors about their teaching. In a peer review, academic colleagues give and receive feedback on teaching with the ultimate goal of enhancing student learning. Formative peer review emphasizes professional growth in teaching and information is intended for an instructor’s personal use. It is typically confidential between the reviewer and person reviewed. Summative peer review is used to aid in making personnel decisions, such as hiring, promotion and tenure—the information is for public inspection (i.e., by the department head or dean, and by tenure and reappointment committees) and may be more comparative in nature than formative peer review, according to author N. V. Chism. While classroom observations may be the most common form of peer review, reviews may be of syllabi, online teaching, assignments, teaching dossiers, laboratory teaching and more.

The evaluation of teaching through student comments, peer reviews and self-reflection can help you grow as an instructor. The evaluation of teaching also matters for your career progression as tenure, promotion and reappointment committees consider the data from these sources in their decision-making processes.

You can start to assemble your dossier by creating digital or physical files and folders to collect information and artifacts. For example, keep a file for all your teaching-related professional growth activities, another for your syllabi to track changes over time, etc. For more information on teaching portfolios, please visit or contact CTLT for an individual consultation.

Be proactive in scheduling a formative peer review and ask colleagues if you can observe their classes in order to gain a better sense of what teaching looks like in your program. As specific guidelines for the peer review of teaching vary across departments and Faculties, we encourage you to consult your department head for a copy of your unit’s guidelines. If you would like to have a formative peer review of your teaching, please contact CTLT. One of our educational consultants can conduct the review or we can find you a reviewer among our Formative Peer Review of Teaching Team, with trained reviewers from across campus.


The following is a list of resources that may help you develop your teaching dossier and/or learn more about peer review of teaching:

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Be proactive and find out, early on, what the departmental expectations are for peer review and a teaching dossier.

Oral Robinson

PhD Lecturer and Honours Chair, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts

Peer review of my teaching helped me to better understand my strengths as an instructor and identify areas of development. At the pre-observation meeting, I received guidance in identifying and articulating my goals, which guided the class observation and the evaluation of my course resources (syllabi and assignments). The process helped me think more critically about how my desired practice aligned with actual experiences and my teaching philosophy. The post-observation was particularly helpful in highlighting my strengths from an objective. Most importantly, I was directed to many resources and best practices—including from other colleagues—to support my development. Overall, the process increased my confidence as an instructor and enhanced my teaching capability via practical support. I would highly recommend peer review of teaching for both new and seasoned instructors.


06  |  Learning Technology

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Learning technology can be broadly described as the application of technology for the enhancement of teaching, learning and assessment. Learning technologies include the use of computers and mobile devices, multimedia materials, and online communication systems to support learning. At UBC, we have a large learning technology ecosystem that includes a learning management system, Canvas; open platforms for collaboration and publishing, such as UBC Wiki and WordPress; and a collection of other tools—many of which are integrated into Canvas.

With the advancement of technology and its impact on society, the last few decades have seen a significant transformation in the way people live, communicate, interact and learn. As people and environments change, so too must the ways you teach in order to be able to adapt and embrace a paradigm shift in the educational landscape. Students spend more time interacting and consuming information on their devices, hence there is a need for flexibility when delivering and accessing the course content online. For example, some students may prefer face-to-face interaction, while others prefer the flexibility offered by an online or blended (a combination of face-to-face and online) format. There are both benefits and challenges afforded by educational technologies.

Technology alone does not enhance teaching and learning. It is important to establish the key pedagogical considerations of your course—define your expectations and intended outcomes before integrating a learning technology into your practice. Remember, technology integration is a progressive process. To start off with, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:
  1. What is the context of my course? (number of students, their backgrounds, their experiences with online learning, etc.)
  2. What are the learning outcomes intended for students in my course?

You can define these through questions such as: What do I want students to understand by the end of the course? How will students demonstrate and apply their understanding? How might the application of learning technology support the learning process? Some of the above questions will help you plan, elaborate and refine what learning technology tools you choose to use in your class while making your approach relevant for your students.

Technology Benefits

  • Students can study wherever they have access to an internet-enabled device.
  • Students are able to work at their own pace.

Technology Challenges

  • A varied learning technology ecosystem means students may be required to use many different learning technologies in the course of their study, which may result in tech overload. Choose wisely! ƒƒ
  • Course materials and environments must be designed to be inclusive and accessible to accommodate the diversity of students and learning contexts.


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The SECTIONS Model, developed by A.W. Bates and G. Poole and described in the book Effective Teaching With Technology in Higher Education, is an excellent framework for selecting and integrating learning technology into your course.

A first step to integrating learning technologies is to take a blended learning approach. In a blended learning environment, there is a combination of face-to-face instruction and online learning, maximizing the educational impact for students. Blended learning breaks the one-size-fits-all model by taking education beyond the physical classroom. It allows students to have some control over the time, place, path and pace of their learning—a critical element of this approach.

Most blended courses at UBC utilize Canvas or other online environments to manage course activities and post course materials. A slow transition to blended learning usually requires less work than a complete redesign of the course. For example, the first time you teach a blended course, you may develop two or three online or “mixed-modality” (i.e., a mix of online and face-to-face) modules, so coursework is about 20 to 25 per cent online. The next time you teach the course, you can build on this until you have the optimal mix of digital and face-to-face learning that meets your teaching goals and your students’ learning needs.

Open Education Practices and Resources

As you prepare for your teaching, chances are you will want to incorporate readings, images, video clips, problem sets or other materials from different sources into your online modules. Additionally, you may want to consider the benefits of online technologies that allow your students to share or contribute with communities beyond the classroom walls. In the past few years, many instructors have chosen to incorporate an “open” aspect in their courses. Open education encompasses a framework of open sharing to improve education access, inclusion and effectiveness. Common open practices at UBC include:

  • The use or creation of open educational resources (OER). OERs are teaching, learning and research resources such as textbooks, videos, articles, images, etc., that are often free and carry legal permissions that allow people to freely copy, modify and share the resources.
  • The adoption of open educational pedagogies that leverage UBC’s open learning technologies such as UBC Blogs and the UBC Wiki. This approach often includes the incorporation of the “student as creator” pedagogical model, emphasizing the role of students as collaborators in the production of knowledge and the benefit of authentic audiences for students’ scholarly outputs.
Please Note


The following is a list of resources that may help you consider the implications of integrating learning technologies into your teaching practice:

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Be inclusive in your use of learning technologies. Don’t assume that all students have the same level of technological knowledge.

David Gaertner

PhD Instructor, First Nations and Indigenous Studies, Faculty of Arts

I’ve found that the best way to integrate technology into your classroom is to go with what you know. My background is in community radio. I worked as a Program Assistant during my time as a graduate student and radio and podcasts are an integral part of how I share and consume information in my day-to-day life. However, I never really considered integrating them into my classrooms until I was five years into my teaching career. When the lightbulb finally went off, I set up a meeting with the staff at CiTR 101.9 and we discussed ways to integrate their resources into my syllabi in mutually beneficial ways. Now my students create podcasts based on their class learning and CiTR is able to use some of this content in their programming. Podcasting allows students to share their ideas beyond the gilded boundaries of the ivory tower and provides hands-on opportunities to discuss key topics in my field such as knowledge dissemination and mobilization, open access and representation. Drawing from my experiences with podcasting, I felt empowered to integrate other technologies like Wikis, Twine and Omeka. Start with what you love and learn it's ok to make mistakes. I am always inspired by the things my students create.


07  |   Next Steps

Your commitment to developing your teaching practice is key to both you and your students’ success at UBC. You will be busy and there will be many things competing for your time. Make an effort to build time into your schedule to reflect on your teaching and to develop your practice.

Connections with peers are also important! We have had many faculty at the New Faculty and Staff Orientation share stories of the invaluable connections with peers and how those peers have served as mentors and supporters over the years. Make the time to invite a colleague you met at the Orientation out for coffee in your first term.

CTLT offers a variety of opportunities to network with peers, attend workshops, get drop-in help and more. Take these steps to stay up-to-date and connected.

CTLT has developed a web resource that can assist you with designing your own pathway to developing your teaching practice. Think about what you want to do related to advancing your teaching and supporting your learning. You might want to develop your teaching or explore educational leadership opportunities. This portal shares the events, resources and services CTLT offers that can help you explore those opportunities and connect with CTLT staff who can help. The is under construction and will be available soon!

Here are some sample Teaching Pathways you could explore:

01 02 03 04
  1. New Faculty and Staff Orientation
  2. Faculty Instructional Skills Workshop
  3. Learning Technology Studio
  1. Canvas Lunch'n'Learns
  2. DIY Media
  3. CTLT Spring Institute
  4. Learning Tech [LT] Hub
  1. Course Design Intensive
  2. Teaching in a Blended Learning Environment
  1. Classroom Climate Series
  2. CTLT Winter Institute
05 06 07
  1. CTLT Summer Institute
  2. Classroom Climate Series
  3. Course Design Institute
  1. Open for Learning Series
  2. Celebrate Learning Week
  1. Teaching Portfolio
  2. Peer Review of Teaching

The following is a list of resources that may help your next steps at UBC: