Each summer, the University of Iowa welcomes new faculty members to campus. For Anna Flaming, associate director at the Center for Teaching, it’s an opportunity to invite tenure-track assistant professors to join the Early Career Faculty Academy, an initiative of the Office of Teaching, Learning, and Technology (OTLT) Center for Teaching in coordination with the Office of the Provost.
Using evidence-based research on educational development and student learning, the academy supports new tenure-track assistant professors to successfully balance teaching with research and other obligations, employ effective and rewarding teaching pedagogies, network with other faculty members, and develop their teaching portfolios in preparation for the third-year review.
To realize these goals, the academy hosts a series of interactive workshops and networking events and provides participants with a range of individual support, such as teaching consultations and support from student instructional technology assistants.
“The Early Career Faculty Academy is a fantastic way for new tenure-track faculty to hit the ground running and set themselves up for success,” says Montserrat Fuentes, executive vice president and provost. “The academy connects new faculty with the experts in the Center for Teaching and the Center’s wealth of resources to help them become stronger teachers, and most importantly, it connects them with each other so they can start building a mutually supportive community.”
Workshops connect faculty members to resources and individuals—including staff from OTLT and elsewhere on campus—and are timed so that members can immediately apply what they have learned. Flaming incorporates various teaching strategies into each workshop, allowing academy members to experience the activity and have a model they can easily adapt for their own classrooms.
“This arsenal of techniques, my participation in the academy, and my interaction with other faculty have given me ideas and encouragement that I feel will have value beyond my first year of teaching,” says Michael O’Rorke, assistant professor of epidemiology who started at Iowa in 2018.
In one fall workshop, participants are introduced to the practice of collecting and responding to midterm feedback from students. Doing so helps instructors make simple but impactful adjustments to support students’ learning during the semester; it also allows students to participate in improving their course and empowers them in their own learning.
The process incorporates a metacognitive aspect. One question the Center for Teaching recommends asking students is, “What can you do to improve your own learning?” This gives students an opportunity to think about how they learn and how to improve their study habits to better fit the learning goals of the course. With support from the Center for Teaching, faculty members can use students’ responses to begin a conversation about how learning works and how students and faculty members can work together to build a meaningful learning community.
Petra Andrlikova, assistant professor of finance, implemented a midsemester feedback survey in fall 2019—her first semester at Iowa—and identified aspects of her course that she could recalibrate.
Reflecting on her experiences in the academy, Andrlikova says,
“The most impactful aspect (so far) for my teaching during this semester has most likely been the advice on how to construct a student survey to receive midsemester feedback. I believe that participating in the academy has had an immediate positive effect on my teaching outcomes.”
Launched in fall 2015, the academy welcomed its fifth cohort this academic year, bringing the number of tenure-track assistant professors who have participated to 123. The members teach in 53 departments across campus. Over these five years, the academy has been supported by 56 tenured mentors who have generously donated their time to connect with the new faculty members.
“We have partnered with academy members, tenured faculty mentors, and campus leadership to enhance the ways that the academy connects with and provides support for Iowa’s new tenure-track faculty,” says Flaming. “As the academy’s alumni begin to earn tenure, it will be exciting to see the collaborations that develop.”