The Teaching Professor blog (a really useful resource for new and for experienced faculty) offers reflections on why it’s important to build rapport with students.  When students feel that they connect well with faculty members, the result is higher student motivation, better quality work, and more trust between student and faculty member.

The post offers suggestions for building rapport, including telling faculty members to have a sense of humor and to be approachable.  It advises faculty members to cultivate an atmosphere of respect.

What the article doesn’t do is offer details about what kinds of classroom actions might produce these results.  What do you do in your classroom to create the kind of climate the Maryellen Weimer is promoting in this article?  What has worked for you in the past?  What has fallen flat?

Rapport does not result in learning, but it certainly helps to create conditions conducive to learning—things like higher motivation, increased comfort, and enhanced communication.


Another thing they didn’t tell you about

Most doctoral programs don’t prepare you for the way your department at a teaching-intensive institution will be wrestling with things like assessment.  This Inside Higher Ed piece can get you started sorting out the difference between giving your students grades and really determining whether they have learned what you wanted them to learn.  Departments as well as individual faculty members have to work out what the right goals are for their students. You’ll find yourself in department meetings discussing such topics as: Do we all agree on what a major in our program should have acquired by graduation?  Is it a body of knowledge, or is it a set of skills?  Is it both?  How should our graduates be able to demonstrate what they know and what they can do?

If your graduate program has prepared you at all for teaching, it will probably have prepared you to construct a course syllabus and run a lab or a discussion section.  But work at a teaching-intensive institution involves a whole lot more than that.

In future posts, we’ll try to lay out some of the issues with which you’ll want to acquaint yourself.  Assessment is a good one, and we will try to give you some good resources to get you started.  If you have some ideas about resources on assessment, please post them here, and we will make them available.

As higher education moves toward a more outcome-driven approach that emphasizes mastery rather than seat time, assessment become more and more intrinsic to teaching and learning. The challenge is to embed assessments in every stage of the learning process in ways that empower students and their instructors.

The Peanut-Butter Cup of Higher Ed

Like peanut butter and chocolate, teaching and research are better together.  The Faculty Focus blog is a great resource for those of us in or aspiring to jobs at teaching-intensive institutions.  Here’s an entry from last week, from Robert C. Bulman, of St. Mary’s College, in California, on the ways your teaching can inform your research.

Having the freedom to take a chance in the classroom–to think outside the box–allows faculty to explore alongside students a potentially new area of research, to learn a new literature, and to experiment with new pedagogies.

Blogs and twitter feeds worth following

Keeping up with what’s happening in higher education will give you a leg up in the job market as well as in your teaching. Great ideas for the classroom and insightful (as well as stupid) reflections on trends in academics are out there for free, in the blogosphere. Twitter is a great way to find out what’s happening in the world of #highered–I follow a lot of good thinkers, so feel free to plunder my Following list. I’m @PaulaKrebs. Matt Reed, who blogs for Inside Higher Ed as @deandad (even though he’s now a VP), brings a national policy perspective, sharp wit, and a warm concern for actual human beings to his Confessions of a Community College Dean. He is always worth reading, for the latest community college news and views. Actually, all the Inside Higher Ed blogs are worth a look-see, from the multiple-authored Mama PhD to College Ready Writing, which highlights the teaching of writing and issues of life off the tenure track, to Grad Hacker, which is currently seeking correspondents (not a bad gig for a grad student) to University of Venus, which highlights the many kinds of experience of women in academe, and many more. The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Vitae section is, like Inside Higher Ed, free to access online–you just have to create an account for yourself. Full disclosure: I publish there occasionally myself. The bloggers at Vitae include the adjunct advocate Josh Boldt and David Perlmutter, who writes about career issues. So does Karen Kelsky, The Professor Is In. Tracey M. Lewis-Giggetts blogs about her experiences of racism in higher ed, and  Stacey Patton writes the controversial (does snarky = anti-student? Let’s have a twitter fight!) Dear Student column, and there’s room for much more on race and class in these two venues for higher ed blogging. Twitter, on the other hand, has a plethora of astute commentators on racial politics in academe, from @tressiemcphd to @lianamsilva to @profKori to @leftofblack, @alondra and many more. Don’t get your head trapped in one institution or one department. Keep an eye on the big picture, and you’ll be able to offer your students and your future position, more than the average job-seeker.

IT tips for snow days

Teaching and learning centers and IT centers are great resources for faculty, including part-timers. North Shore Community College offers some timely instructional technology tips for helping your classes through the disruptions of all these snow days. Check out their blog.

Have your courses been impacted by the snow days? Are you looking for a way to continue student learning even when classes are cancelled due to weather?


At this year’s association of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) conference, insidehighered.com’s Scott Jaschik talked about the need for R1 institutions to better train doctoral students for teaching careers.

If you’re looking to make a career at a teaching-intensive institution, AAC&U is one of the organizations you should follow. It focuses on student success, liberal education, high-impact practices, and other elements of providing excellent undergraduate education.

Familiarize yourself with its publications and its initiatives. Many of the publications are downloadable for free; others might be available through your graduate school or employing institution’s institutional membership.

Their work on what employers want from recent graduates is very influential, and being conversant in that kind of information shows that you are concerned about the students you want to teach.

Knowing organizations such as AAC&U can help make you a better teacher and a better job candidate.