question marks - understanding our instructional choices November 10

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

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

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

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

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.


July 20, 2016

Avoiding Burnout: Self-Care Strategies for Faculty

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Now that you’ve finished assessing your students, it’s time to turn the assessment process around by looking in the mirror. If you limped across the finish line last semester, it may be time to identify some new strategies for self-care. In our “Tending the Teacher” session at the recent Teaching Professor Conference in Washington, D.C., we presented a menu of ideas to help faculty design a balanced and productive work life. Here are our top tips:


September 17, 2015

The On-Going Life of One Retired Dean and Professor

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“How are you enjoying retirement, Tom?” This is the question I get everywhere I meet old friends and colleagues. “I read that nice article about your retirement in the local paper and see that the mayor even declared in a proclamation that this event was to be honored in the city as ‘Dr. Thomas R. McDaniel Day,’ and I see that the governor awarded you the Order of the Silver Crescent for your contributions to the state and region—very cool way to go out.”


faculty meeting July 10, 2015

A Tool for Keeping Faculty Meetings Collegial

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If your faculty meetings have turned into what feels like an excerpt from the Hunger Games, we have something that might help. When faculty meetings turn into a great big giant nasty-fest, where the aggressors walk away feeling self-satisfied, while the less fortunate (or non-tenured) walk away licking their wounds, it’s time to be proactive toward building a culture of civility. Without a plan, even the boldest faculty members can be shocked into silence by unexpected comments meant to target and degrade specific individuals. In some departments, passive-aggressiveness rules the day, where personal agendas are hidden within the safety of veiled insults that should not go unanswered.


Professor helping student June 8, 2015

How to Avoid Being a Helicopter Professor

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For years there has been talk about shifting a professor’s role from the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side.” But as some teachers leave the center stage, they may not move to the side as guides. Instead, they may find themselves hovering above students as helicopter parents hover over their children. While a complete lack of guidance is not a good idea, excessive guiding could turn constructivist scaffolds into new forms of crutches.