Your New Teaching Community

A Brief Guide to Teaching for Faculty Members

Teacher-students collaborating.As a member of the instructional faculty, you are the foundation of teaching and learning at the University of Maryland. As an accomplished scholar, you introduce students to the histories, concepts, and problems of the disciplines that shape the academic work of undergraduates. Whatever the venue for learning may be, effective faculty recognize that undergraduate teaching requires attention to the way students learn.

As new faculty, you may be teaching your first autonomous course. For those who have taught previously, you may be adjusting to a new teaching and student culture. Returning faculty may want to expand their existing methods, grow their pedagogical knowledge base, or engage in a deeper exchange of scholarship about teaching and learning. Our aim is to provide resources for all three audiences and to improve the quality of undergraduate teaching and learning at the University by pointing instructional faculty to valuable campus resources. Here we present many of the University’s expectations of its teaching faculty, as well as pedagogical and operational guidance applicable to faculty. It includes material from the Office of Faculty Affairs’ website (www.faculty.umd.edu, see “Teaching Policies”) and the Annual Instructional Policies & Guidelines for Faculty booklet.

Acclimating to Your New Teaching Community

If you are a new member of the University of Maryland instructional faculty, an awareness of your expectations and prior educational experiences will be helpful as you settle into a new teaching and learning culture. Quite understandably previous experience and academic settings play a significant role in one’s teaching schemas—especially in one’s conceptions of what constitutes “good teaching.” Many faculty pursue careers in higher education because of a relationship they shared with an instructor, professor, or mentor along the way. Having these positive experiences is an important part of becoming a teacher yourself. Role models give us something to work toward as well as provide an example for handling the challenges that arise when we teach. Sometimes, though, our schemas can work as barriers. Each institution has a unique culture and reconciling previous lived experience with the realities of a new setting can be frustrating. In many cases, prior experience may help you to solve problems or meet challenges in fresh and exemplary ways that your Maryland colleagues have never considered. However, simply repurposing methods, syllabi, course policies, and expectations will be less rewarding for you and your students than if you take the time to modify your existing schema to attend to the realities of your new setting.

Just as faculty remain engaged with evolving conversations in their disciplines, good teachers reflect on effective pedagogy by utilizing campus resources and learning from experienced colleagues. There are several opportunities outside of one’s home department to learn about the University of Maryland’s teaching and student culture. In August each year, the Office of Faculty Affairs runs a New Faculty Orientation. Materials about orientation are mailed out to newly hired faculty over the summer and details are available on the Faculty Affairs website (www.faculty.umd.edu/orientation). 

Additionally, the TLTC offers workshops, consultations, and fellowships to faculty in the interest of building a community of teachers across disciplinary boundaries, to address individual concerns and questions, to stimulate investigation and inquiry about the scholarship of teaching and learning, and to confront institutional challenges to student learning. Your home department or college may also have a local Teaching and Learning Transformation Center designed to address disciplinary questions and needs related to teaching. Finally, search out experienced faculty in your department—especially those who have taught courses you will be teaching. Though you may want to teach the course differently or have starkly different approaches, experienced faculty can offer valuable insights into student habits and behavior, expectations, and attitudes that will help you be better prepared when you begin to teach.