Teaching Insights for New Duke Faculty

“What I Wish I Had Known About Teaching (at Duke),” a faculty event hosted by the Center for Instructional Technology, offered new instructors an opportunity to learn from expert Duke faculty as they shared their tips and lessons learned from their years of teaching at Duke.

The four expert faculty panelists were:

Faculty shared their teaching tips and lessons learned on the following topics:

  • Engaging your students
  • Teaching methods and techniques that work across academic disciplines
  • Teaching and academic support resources for faculty
  • Course planning, syllabus design, and instructional technologies
  • Assumptions about teaching and meeting the needs of Duke students

Engaging your students

Forbes told new faculty it’s important to connect with your students. Participating in a Duke FLUNCH (Faculty + Lunch program) is one way to do this. The FLUNCH program provides each undergraduate student funding to take two faculty to lunch during the semester. It’s important to let your students know you are available to FLUNCH, and it’s a great way to learn more about their interests.

A quick look at the Duke Student Affairs website highlights a number of ways faculty can engage with  students outside the classroom, including the International House Global Cafe, and the Faculty Outings: Duke, Durham, and Beyond program.

Engaging your students in the classroom requires some pre-planning, and the need to be flexible, because Duke students need multiple options to connect. Reisinger requires a 20-minute meeting at the start of the semester with each student, which helps to establish rapport. This is a good option if you teach a smaller class. Faculty also mentioned using active learning techniques, getting students to work in groups, using online discussion tools for peer feedback such as Sakai forums or Piazza, and using audience response options such as  Clickers and Poll Everywhere as ways to engage students and encourage peer-to-peer interaction.

Explore teaching methods – try new things

Panelists discussed their teaching modalities, including active learning, flipped classes, team-based learning, and lecture methods. Nightingale encouraged new faculty “to explore and find what works for you and the dynamic with your students, to go ahead and experiment, try new things –don’t be afraid to try something new.”

Professor Kathryn Nightengale

Forbes shared the importance of being true to who you are as an instructor. While there are many teaching methods, and faculty might be eager to try active learning, or the flipped classroom, it’s important to not attempt techniques for the sake of doing something new. Forbes cautioned new faculty: “Students will be unhappy with you if you try to do something and you don’t do it well. Be yourself. Our students appreciate the idea of a smart person teaching them. They want to know if you wrote the textbook.”

Rethink your assumptions about teaching

Duke offers a variety of experiential, co-curricular, and global study related programs, and about 50% of Duke Trinity Arts & Sciences students participate in global education offerings. Reisinger found that Duke students bring a variety of experiences to the classroom, that they are very passionate about their interests, and as a result of this she reflected deeply on her pedagogy, considering new approaches to teaching and assessing students’ learning. She felt students needed more project-based work. Roberts said his teaching assumptions were challenged when he first began teaching Duke students. Even though students are  goal-oriented, planning for their next step, and thinking about their future careers, they are willing to master the course material and will work hard to do so.

Nightingale mentioned Duke students want to see the connections across the curriculum, so if you are teaching a required course, mention how the topics connect to the higher level courses, explain the curriculum pathway, and explain how the content builds towards their junior and senior year classes.

Teaching and academic support resources

When asked about support resources all faculty should be aware of, Reisinger suggested the Language, Arts + Media Lab (LAMP), the Center for Instructional Technology (CIT), and (Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum) (CLAC). “These all stand in as ad-hoc teaching centers on campus, and we should know to reach out to them. LAMP and CIT sometimes offer faculty fellowships, which can give extended support. The Duke Thompson Writing Program (TWP) is also a great resource, and they’ll come to your class, or support students in their writing practices.

In addition, faculty are not always aware of the support structures in place for students on campus, or how to help them when they are under stress. Reisinger suggests learning more about  Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) stating that “When we consider getting to know the whole student, this is quite important.”

Roberts suggested Data and Visualization Services in the library, which provide training and consultation to help faculty with classes, projects and assignment that involve use of datasets, data analysis or visualization.

New faculty can also reach out to subject librarians, who are available to come to your class for a research instruction session, participate in your Sakai course to answer questions, and help with discussing research options as you design assignments.

Additional Duke resources for new faculty