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Research on Successful New Faculty

Research on Successful New Faculty:
The Quick Starters*

As with any new position, faculty new to UCSB will find it necessary to make unanticipated as well as anticipated adjustments. Robert Boice (1991;1992) studied 200 new faculty on two campuses (one comprehensive and one doctoral) over two years, collecting data from interviews and Likert scale responses of three groups: inexperienced newcomers (less than 2 years since doctorate), second career newcomers (from careers outside academe), and experienced new faculty (including full-time teaching at another campus). For most new faculty in this study, the first year was full of surprises. Collegial support, preparation time, and student ratings held the most surprises and disappointments.

Critical Success Factors for New Faculty

Boice was able to identify what he terms "quick starters": new faculty who adapted more readily than others. These faculty quickly learned to competently and efficiently carry out their teaching responsibilities and integrate their teaching with their other scholarly activities. Threeaspects stood out as critical to the new faculty in Boice's study.

1. Collegial Support. Of the three new faculty groups in this study, returning newcomers were most vocal about the lack of collegial support. Perhaps they expected to feel the level of acceptance similar to what they previously experienced as faculty. This would be a difficult expectation to meet and one on which returning faculty might want to reflect.

A majority of inexperienced newcomers interviewed in Boice's study also felt a lack of collegial support. They thought they should have gotten more concrete help from experienced colleagues, particularly with copies of previously used syllabi and perhaps other course material. They characterized chairs and senior faculty as expressing the attitude that the best faculty figure things out on their own. By their second year, many first time faculty turned to one another for support.

Inexperienced newcomers who were most satisfied and successful during their first two years (quick starters) expressed interest in learning the creative ways senior colleagues had devised to make learning easier and more interesting to their students. They sought out senior faculty and used them as role models. They were also open to trying out various methods and teaching styles in the classroom.

2. Teaching. According to Boice's findings, the majority of faculty in all three newcomer categories defined teaching in ways that viewed students as passive recipients of information. They sought to improve their teaching, but did not seek external advice on how to make improvements. The majority reported lower student ratings than they had expected.

All categories of new faculty in this study described themselves as being well-prepared and knowledgeable; interested in students; good at explaining/ conceptualizing; and good at motivating students. They equated good teaching with clear, knowledgeable, and inspiring lectures. Most described their classroom styles in ways that indicated to the researcher that they defined teaching at a very simplistic level, one that has been called "facts-and-principles lecturing."

At the end of the first semester, between 50 and 80 percent of all categories of new faculty received student ratings below the mean rating for the campus. Throughout their second year, student rating of their teaching improved but continued to be lower than desirable. These new faculty began attributing the disappointing ratings to their students' inability to handle challenging material. They rarely sought out advice for ways of translating ratings into alternative styles of teaching. They taught defensively, concentrating on covering the material and getting the facts straight. This "more of the same" approach was not a successful one.

Quick starters took a very different approach to their teaching. They were more relaxed and even though they taught in a facts-and-principles manner, they left time for student participation. They had good rapport with students and encouraged their classroom involvement through verbal and non verbal cues. The quick starters enjoyed their teaching and their students, expressing positive and optimistic attitudes about the undergraduates on their campuses.

3. Preparation Time vs. Research and Writing Time. The biggest mistake most new faculty seem to make is spending too much time on preparing material for lectures. Rather than providing students with the structure for thinking about the material and including only necessary content, many new faculty try to cover too much. Many openly admitted to over preparing lectures, to having too much material to present without hurrying their lectures, and to being perfectionists beyond the level that could be rewarded in most classes. Knowledge of these errors did not seem to make any difference in their behaviors.

For all faculty in the study, there was a constant anticipation that the next semester would bring about greater balance between their teaching and research. As semesters came and went, this balance was not achieved by most; and few found themselves to be as productive in summer as they had anticipated. However, quick starters were able to reduce their teaching preparation time by the first half of their second year. For many faculty, it is rather frightening to cut back on preparation time and give up writing out every detail in advance of the lecture. Boice found that it takes a "leap of faith" to this, as well as support and encouragement by colleagues to focus on particular goals for student learning and leave out that which does not contribute thou those goals.

Seven Attributes of Successful New Faculty. During their first two years, quick starters were exemplary teachers according to student ratings, Boice's ratings, and self-descriptions. All had the following attributes.

Quick Starter Attributes:

1. positive attitudes about students;
2. relaxed paced lectures with student involvement;
3. low levels of complaining about students, workload etc.;
4. actively seeking advice about teaching;
5. quicker transition to moderate levels of lecture preparation;
6. superior investment in time spent on scholarly and grant writing; and
7. readiness to improve their teaching.

Boice describes the quick starters as resilient, insightful, and positively identified with the campus. They demonstrated resilience by not taking their early feelings of isolation personally but rather sought out senior faculty for support and identified those who could be helpful. They demonstrated their insight as they gathered information about their new role and new environment. They were able to separate gossip and small talk from valuable and reliable information. Perhaps because they quickly identified helpful senior faculty, Boice's quick starters began to feel themselves as part of the campus more readily than other new faculty.

Advice to New Faculty . The most obvious advice is for new faculty is to follow the model set by quick starters. Finding balance in time expenditure is critical. Boice suggests new faculty keep daily records of how they spend their time and decrease classroom preparation to a maximum of one and a half hours per classroom lecture hour. With regard to teaching, Boice directs new faculty to seek advice on how to interpret student ratings, and to improve teaching accordingly. Further, he suggests that new faculty attend to social networking, spend time on scholarly writing each day, and integrate research and scholarly writing interests into lectures. Boice (2000) also advises selection of a mentor from among senior faculty, collaborating with others on teaching as well as research, keeping a positive attitude, and finally, balance and moderation in all things.
Boice, R. (1992). The new faculty member. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Boice R. (1991). “Quick starters: New faculty who succeed.” In M.T. & J. Franklin (eds.), Effective Practices for Improving Teaching. New Directions for Teaching and Learning. 48. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Boice, R. (2000). Advice for new faculty members. Needleham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon
*Article revised 2006 by author: Ronkowski, S.A. (1993). "New faculty: What makes for success?" Instructional News. Office of Instructional Consultation. University of California Santa Barbara.

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