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First-year teacher training to be boon for new faculty

August 25, 2015

It’s the first day of classes at Arizona State University. You are a first-year professor. Your goal: to be that valued instructor who meets each individual’s needs. 

No small challenge for teachers with ASU’s enrollment and diversity at record levels in this year’s incoming student body. New faculty need to connect with learners who range from eager to half awake, 17 to 40-plus, confident to seeking, local to international, and first-generation to business professional. 

To help support new faculty as they begin teaching, ASU will launch a program devised by 12 inaugural Teaching Fellows: the new Provost’s Teaching Academy. 

“The ASU faculty offers a nearly unlimited pool of talent to support our junior professors,” said Deb Clarke, vice provost for academic personnel. “The academy’s teaching fellows are some of the most accomplished of our faculty members, at the cutting edge as teachers and mentors. We’re fortunate to be able to draw on their expertise to advance ASU’s commitment to excellence in teaching” 

This fall the fellows will focus on working with new junior faculty members and developing a number of 90-minute instructional modules on effective teaching and learning techniques, which will be implemented for the 2016-2017 academic year.  

Students in this Gen Y, or Millennial, cohort are very different as a group from previous generations. That means that instructional and learning strategies need to be modified to ensure that this new generation of students has the opportunity to learn, develop necessary critical-thinking and problem-solving skills and stay engaged.

As the program progresses, fellows will also mentor faculty members in areas such as balancing research and teaching, teaching technology-enhanced courses, using social media to promote learning, using classroom learning assessment techniques, and designing effective test questions.

“Topics were selected based on a survey sent out to all non-tenured faculty at the university, asking what information might have boosted their success and skills as teachers when they first arrived on campus,” Clarke said. Among those topics highlighted: being sensitive to diversity and inclusion, and teaching controversial subjects.

“The academy is going to help both teachers and ASU students,” said Teaching Fellow Mary Niemczyk. “I think faculty members will also enjoy their jobs more by learning what we can teach them about engaging with students, and that in turn can have a positive impact on student retention and graduation rates.”

New faculty come to ASU in command of the knowledge and skills inherent to their disciplines, but not all arrive with prior experience in teaching their own courses, and fewer have received any systematic, research-based training in teaching, according to Teaching Fellow Steve Semken.

“When and where I started, the only resources available to me were copies of lecture notes and a few ‘war stories’ from my more senior colleagues,” Semken said. “I’m happy to be involved in a program that promotes effective, evidence-based teaching and helps new faculty build pedagogical knowledge to complement their research expertise.”

The 12 selected for the academy include:

Tamiko Azuma, associate professor and director of the Attention, Memory and Language Lab in the in the Department of Speech and Hearing Science in the College of Health Solutions. Her research interests center on memory and language processing in healthy monolingual and bilingual speakers, military veterans and adults with traumatic brain injury. 

Karen Bruhn, principal lecturer with Barrett, The Honors College at ASU. Her research interests are in religious studies and interdisciplinary pedagogy, and she teaches the interdisciplinary first-year seminar, “The Human Event,” at Barrett.

Stanlie James, professor of African and African American Studies with a joint appointment in the Women and Gender Studies program in the School of Social Transformation. Her research includes women’s international human rights and Black feminisms. She has lectured widely both nationally and internationally and is a recipient of the ASU Commission on the Status of Women's Outstanding Achievement and Contribution Award.

Erik Johnston, associate professor and director of the Center for Policy Informatics in the School of Public Affairs. His research interests include understanding the dynamics of policy decisions for building collaborations in civic, business and academic contexts, the influence of central-remote office arrangements, complex systems methodology, communication, quantitative and qualitative research methods.

Barbara Lafford, professor of Spanish in the School of International Letters and Cultures. She has published and given workshops nationally and internationally in sociolinguistics, second-language acquisition, computer-assisted language learning, and languages for specific purposes/experiential learning.

Bertha Manninen, associate professor of philosophy in the School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. Her scholarly interests include applied ethics, biomedical ethics, normative and meta-ethics, philosophy of religion, social and political philosophy.

Pamela Marshall, associate professor in the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. Her research ranges from the study of cellular response, mathematical modeling and gene networks to science pedagogy, learning communities and the way students learn science. 

Mary Niemczyk, associate professor and chair of the aviation programs in The Polytechnic School, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Her research focuses on improving instructional and learning strategies to enhance the performance of individuals in complex, ill-defined environments, such as aviation.

Wilhelmina Savenye, professor of educational technology in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. She has published widely about instructional design and evaluation of technology-based learning systems. Her work has been conducted in settings as diverse as public schools, museums, botanical gardens, zoos, universities, corporations and with the U.S. Army.

Steven Semken, associate professor of geology and geoscience education in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. Semken has led teachers' workshops and taught for 27 years with the Dine (Tribal) College, U.S. Air Force Academy and ASU. In 2014, he received the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Zebulon Pearce Teaching Award.

Jean Stutz, professor of science and math in the College of Letters and Sciences. An award-winning teacher and student adviser, her research centers on human activities and the diversity and functioning of plants and microbes in arid, riparian and urban ecosystems, as well as innovative teaching and learning.

Max Underwood, President’s Professor and architect in the Design School in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. His scholarship and creative activities interweave the art of teaching with the realities of exemplary design and architectural practice. He received three national American Institute of Architects awards for his teaching innovations.

Peggy Coulombe,
Office of the Provost

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