What? The Center for the Advancement of TEACHING, is telling me to spend less time on my teaching?
We all know that Xavier is a premier undergraduate university. This is largely in part due to the dedicated faculty who put teaching first in order to help students achieve their goals. However, we as faculty have goals too, and some of those goals extend from the classroom. It is our job to balance those goals and obligations so that each facet of our careers can thrive. So to that end, what are the best practices, and easiest pitfalls, that new faculty can fall into?
Dr. Robert Boice, Professor of Psychology at SUNY in Stony Brook, NY, has done extensive research polling and following hundreds of faculty members across disciplines and institution types and then charting their success in the tenure and promotion process. Overwhelmingly, the most common problem among faculty was not spending enough time on scholarly writing (proposals and papers) but that was linked hand-in-hand with being over prepared for their classes. When faculty were reporting spending nearly 30 hours a week preparing for class, it is clear that some other aspect of their job was going to suffer for it. However, not all faculty suffered from this lack of balance. Boice identified 5–9% of new faculty as "quick starters," who in their first few years were well on their way to promotion and tenure especially with respect to scholarship. Moreover, they also scored in the top quarter of peer and student ratings of teaching; so their scholarly success was not achieved at the expense of their students.
You can read a brief article from Chemical Engineering Education summarizing his findings here:
And if you think this might be helpful, you can find Dr. Boice’s book here (among other places):
However, at Xavier, it can be quite easy to quickly achieve a balance. As I mentioned, one of our greatest assets, and your greatest resource, are our faculty. Here are some tips to leverage the resources you have in order to prepare a better class, in a reasonable amount of time, leaving sufficient time for scholarship:
- Ask for and accept help from senior faculty. If someone has taught a course that is new for you, odds are they are happy to share their notes, slides, test, etc. Certainly you will want to make the courses you teach your own, but there is no need to spend hours reinventing the wheel (or at least reinventing the diagrams on a PowerPoint slide).
- Do not be afraid to protect your writing time. We all want to have “open door” policies to our students and be generally available to them, but that does not mean you need to be on call 24/7. Do not fear your student evaluations suffering if you close your door sometimes to write. As long as you are available without fail for your classes and office hours as promised, no one will fault you for attending to other parts of your job. (I personally was reluctant to do this years ago, and speak from experience that there was no negative effect on my student evaluations.)
- Visit CAT. OK, you knew this one was coming. There are many faculty resources here in CAT including a staff that is eager to help you, not only with your teaching, but with incorporating your teaching into your job as a well-rounded (and successful!) Xavier faculty member