Each year we welcome new faculty to campus. Some are beginning the tenure process, some are visiting (including postdocs, adjuncts and folks on sabbatical) while others are making a mid-career transition. Hopefully when you arrive, orientation helps you understand the culture of the place. The topics tell you what is important to the institution. Hopefully you can start to get a sense of what is expected of you by many different constituencies – the administration, the faculty, your department (and chair), the staff, your students (both in courses and those whose research you supervise) and your advisees. Orientation also can help you understand what kind of support you can expect from these same people.
So what do you do if your institution does not have support structures in place that you think you might find helpful? Most institutions have someone designated to mentor faculty development. It could be a vice-provost, dean, associate dean or head of a teaching and learning center. It might make sense to check in with this person and ask what is possible. Would you like a mentor outside your department? Would you like to set up weekly lunches with a group of junior faculty? Would you like to have a writing group that helps keep each other on task and productive?
Here are a couple of suggestions to start the teaching year, especially for those on the job market or tenure-track: (1) set up some peer observations and (2) make plans for formative assessment. Continue reading