college teachers July 9

Six Things That Make College Teachers Successful

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1. Study the knowledge base of teaching and learning.

You have chosen to teach in higher education because you are a subject-matter specialist with a tremendous knowledge of your discipline. As you enter or continue your career, there is another field of knowledge you need to know: teaching and learning. What we know about teaching and learning continues to grow dramatically. It includes developing effective instructional strategies, reaching today’s students, and teaching with technology. Where is this knowledge base? Books, articles in pedagogical periodicals, newsletters, conferences, and online resources provide ample help. Take advantage of your institution’s center for teaching and learning or other professional development resources.


Working across disciplines March 22

A Call for the Return of the Polymath Professor

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A polymath is “a person of wide knowledge or learning” (Oxford Dictionary) with expertise spanning across a wide spectrum of subject areas and domains. It is expected that such expertise will help the polymath solve complex problems needing the application of transdisciplinary knowledge. Being a polymath and subscribing to the notion that people should embrace all ideas is the core around which the idea of a “Renaissance man” was constructed.


teaching colleagues March 20

Those Indispensable Colleagues

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I’ve been especially appreciative of my colleagues this week and there are lots of reasons why.

  • My colleagues teach me. As might be suspected, I mostly collaborate with folks who are interested in teaching and learning. They’re good teachers and good teaching advocates who think about teaching in intellectually robust ways. They have ideas that are new to me and will often send me things they think I should read. I learn from their experience, their insights, and what they believe about teaching and learning.


teaching during personal crisis February 2

Teaching During a Personal Crisis

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I reread Nancy Chick’s “Teaching in Times of Crisis” with depressing regularity. It’s about what to do when the horrors of the world—the mass shootings, the hurricanes, the hate marches—walk our students to class. I recommend reading the full article, which discusses practical and specific techniques in detail, but Chick also boils down her research to “acknowledge the crisis.” After neo-Nazis plastered our campus with racist recruitment posters this semester, my students echoed this take-away. As one student put it, “tell us you’re there for us, that you’re a listening ear.”


question marks - understanding our instructional choices November 10, 2017

Questions for Bringing Your Instructional Practices into Focus

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Nothing works quite as well as a good question when it comes to getting the intellectual muscles moving. Given the daily demands of most academic positions, there’s not much time that can be devoted to reflection about teaching. But good questions are useful because they can be carried with us and thought about now and then, here and there. And they can be chatted about with colleagues, in person or online.


meeting across the disciplines October 9, 2017

Moving from Silos and Burnout to Community and Engagement

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“Do more with less.” Wherever this phrase is expressed—at a private liberal arts school facing declining enrollments, a large research institute facing decreased support from state budget appropriations, a large corporation facing decreasing fourth quarter profits, or a government entity facing budgetary cutbacks—in each case, the underlying force is tightening fiscal resources. What invariably follows is that employees are asked to be more creative or productive in the face of those declining resources, causing an increase in demand on one’s time and, often, feelings of burnout. While increasing workload is one factor that exacerbates the prevalence of burnout, there are several others.


Young professor with students September 29, 2017

How to Make the Most of Your First Year of Teaching

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Crowdsourcing advice for new faculty

This fall, thousands of new college teachers walked into their very own classrooms for the first time. They’ve ignored the butterflies, handled the inevitable technical malfunctions with aplomb, and learned to successfully navigate both the campus web portal and the faculty parking lot.

But there’s so much to learn, and none of it has to do with course content. They’ve had some real affirming moments, but most days feel like a race to stay a step ahead of the students. They feel like imposters … worried that their students, their colleagues, and, worst of all, their department chair will discover that they really don’t know how to teach.


Conference attendees May 17, 2017

Taking Time to Refresh, Recharge, and Recommit

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I continue to worry that we devalue the affective dimensions of teaching—the emotional energy it takes to keep delivering high-quality instruction.

Most faculty are on solid ground in terms of expertise. We know and, in most cases, love our content. We don’t get tired of it—oh, maybe we do a bit in those foundation courses, but the content isn’t what wears us down; it’s the daily grind, having to be there every class session, not just physically present but mentally and emotionally engaged as well. Good teaching requires more energy than we think it does.


Professor with small group of students. March 15, 2017

Mid-Career Faculty: 5 Great Things About Those Long Years in the Middle

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I’ve been thinking here lately about that long mid-career stretch where there is no clearly defined beginning or ending. You’re no longer a new faculty member, but aren’t yet an old one. From a pedagogical perspective, what makes that time window unique? In a recent post on tired teaching I identified what I think is the major challenge of those years—keeping your teaching fresh and keeping yourself engaged, enthusiastic, and instructionally moving forward. On the other hand, some special opportunities are afforded by that long stretch in the middle. The question is whether we’re taking full advantage of them.


female professor in front of small class September 12, 2016

An Introduction to Teaching through the Seasons

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It all started 56 years ago with a brown paper sack. This no-frills carrier contained a stash of glue, crayons, scissors, and strips of construction paper. These were my teaching tools. According to my mother, I carried this sack with me everywhere. Naturally drawn to showing and explaining things, I later graduated to using a small chalkboard. When our cat had kittens, they became my pupils, though admittedly they were less attentive than my stuffed animals.