Teaching Part-Time

Teaching as a Part-time Instructor

Mug that says "I love teaching" (with an apple in place of a heart), next to a pen and notepad.The University offers many courses taught by part- and full-time instructors, visiting faculty, and others. What follows is not a summary of policy, but guidance on pedagogical matters and protocols that influence teaching.

Backgrounds, Experiences, and Contributions to the University

While all who teach a course bring valuable experience and context to their courses, those whose primary profession entails more than undergraduate teaching at the University of Maryland are able to particularly enhance their courses. Very often, such faculty share professional experiences and a perspective of professional life outside of the University. Because many of these instructors teach in addition to significant professional responsibilities, they have demonstrated an enthusiasm for and commitment to teaching as an end and not a means to advancement in higher education. Those whose professions are off-campus bring connections to networks of guest presenters and other resources for research and experiential learning (e.g., the adjunct engineering faculty may take a small class on a site visit, or the part-time music performance faculty may invite students to a closed rehearsal off-campus). Finally, those who teach at more than one institution find that their familiarity with multiple intellectual environments enriches student learning.

Orientation to Teaching at Maryland

As instructional staff, you will be given a University email account, as well as a directory (LDAP) ID, which will be your means to creating and using ELMS course spaces, as well as other electronic interfaces (including personnel and payroll, library use, grade submission). Because most correspondence with students will take place by email or ELMS, be sure that your account is either forwarding email to a preferred account or checked regularly.

You will also be assigned office-hour space and supported by your department’s staff. Communicate clearly to students the location and times of your office hour availability. Ask your department’s chair, director of undergraduate studies, or administrator who supervises your course to explain the ways the department will provide logistical support for your course; this includes photocopying privileges, course evaluations, verifying rosters and responding to students on waitlists to enroll in your course, procedures for responding to student grievances, and tech support.

Because the course(s) you teach constitutes part of each student’s learning as an undergraduate at the University, the effectiveness of that course is often enhanced by some familiarity with how it connects to a larger curriculum. Consider a brief review of your department’s course descriptions and tracks for majors, and, if your course satisfies a requirement (for all students or for majors), investigate that curricular context by reading the University’s description of the purposes of general education, the department’s learning outcomes for its majors, and any other public statement about the purpose of the curriculum to which your course belongs. Ask for sample syllabi from previous iterations of your course and, if possible, discuss the course with any faculty member who has taught one of those versions. The department chair or director of undergraduate studies should be a good source for guidance on the course.

Consider how to frame your relationship with students. For example, students are sometimes uncertain about the degree of formality with which they should address the instructor and will ask whether you prefer to be called “Professor,” “Doctor,” “Mr. or Ms.,” or by your first name. While the appropriate address should of course be dictated by a combination of your actual title and your personality, it is wise to consult others who teach in your department (which may thrive on the sort of culture that encourages first-name exchanges between undergraduates and faculty or may value the formality of rank and title).

Consider effective ways to integrate your experience in your teaching. For example, if you have taught courses at a number of institutions, you bring a variety of curricula, student learning styles, and student goals. That perspective should be brought to bear as you teach, as your students will bring a wide range of expectations and frames to your course. Those part-time instructors who teach courses in disciplines connected to a profession should carefully consider strategies for presenting that experience to new learners. For example, a congressional staffer teaching a course in the Department of Government and Politics on contemporary legislation could develop thoughtful ways to turn her/his experience into problem-based learning by introducing an actual case with which she is familiar, outlining stakeholders and precedents, and guiding students through their own responses to that experience-turned-course content. Note the distinction here between storytelling (primarily telling students what you have done) and inventing strategies for using that experience to stimulate active learning.