New to UMass
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Enhancing Your Teaching
This site will provide you with answers to a few important questions about teaching that new faculty often have during the early months of their careers at UMass Amherst.
Click the questions below to view the information.
What resources on campus can help me add a fourth credit to my General Education course?
The CTFD staff offers a range of consultation services related to all phases of course design (e.g., planning, implementation and assessment), including the conversion of a Gen Ed course from 3 to 4 credits. For example, you can meet with a CTFD consultant to discuss how to:
- Prepare a syllabus;
- Develop new goals for student learning and the assessment strategies;
- Incorporate technologies;
- Design innovative teaching strategies that appropriately address the size of your course;
- Gather student feedback;
- Build in opportunities for active learning and group work; and
- Collect confidential mid-term feedback on the course from students (MAP).
Faculty may also take advantage of the CTFDâ€™s in-house resource video and print library, which has books on course planning, syllabus design, teaching strategies, and tools for undergraduate teaching. Finally, the CTFD staff can also help you identify and prepare for useful consultations with other support services on campus.
Three to Four Conversion: Guiding Principles of Course Design
A conversion may allow you to extend course content, incorporate new teaching strategies, and/or diversify learning activities and assessment methods. As you plan the conversion of your Gen Ed course from 3 to 4 credits:
- Focus on how to deepen learning outcome goals;
- Articulate how changes align with Gen Ed objectives;
- Consider the coherence of course elements (e.g. learning objectives, activities, and assessments);
- Incorporate appropriate assessment strategies;
- Attend to diverse learning styles;
- Explore the options available in SPARK for online learning; and
- Communicate regularly with students about your expectations.
Three to Four Conversion: Planning Phase
As you plan your new course design, these questions may help shape your thinking:
- Are there new learning activities you can deepen or extend as well as add?
- Are there additional learning objectives that you may have wanted your students to engage in (e.g. small group activities or presentations)?
- Consider teaching to diverse learning styles, incorporating group work, peer learning opportunities, self-directed learning activities and/or experiential learning through community-based projects.
- Are there new ways by which you could assess student learning? What new criteria and evidence can be use to demonstrate student learning?
- Consider how technologies can help you engage students in new ways (e.g. Writing-to-Learn activities)
Consider new roles for TAs. For example:
- Can TA(s) help with course management tasks?
- Can TA(s) help facilitate student learning?
- Can TA(s) help collect feedback from students?
As you communicate your expectations to students:
- Provide early on the rationale for 4 credits.
- Be as explicit as you can about how student performance will be assessed.
- Gather formative feedback from students about their perceptions of the course.
- Consider a MAP to help collect such feedback from students mid point.
How do I know what to put into a syllabus?
The UMass Amherst Office of Academic Planning & Assessment (OAPA) has created a very handy Syllabus Construction Tool designed to help faculty prepare their syllabi.
What resources on multiculturalism and diversity in teaching does the CTFD provide?
One of the strengths of the CTFD is to provide consultations as well as resources (both print and video) on multiculturalism and diversity in higher education. The CTFD library contains an extensive collection of articles covering topics such as course design, knowing better who our students are, and professional growth and development. For a selection of recommended articles, please see the attached annotated bibliography.
Does the CTFD recommend any resources on online teaching and learning?
Yes. The UMass Amherst Office of Academic Planning & Assessment (OAPA) has created a detailed guide on how best to approach and conduct online learning.
Are there any sample department/course-level TA handbooks here at UMass Amherst?
Yes. For a sample of a very good UMass Amherst TA training tool, please see Dr. John McCarthyâ€™s Linguistics TA Handbook.
What resources are available on campus to help my students with their learning?
The Faculty Guide from the Provost’s Office contains detailed information on all learning support services on campus. Three areas, in particular, that support a large number of students are:
- The Learning Resource Center provides peer tutoring in both study skills and academic subjects.
- The Learning Commons is a space on the lower level of the W.E.B Du Bois Main Library that brings together academic, technology, and library support.
- The Writing Center provides one-on-one consultations to students on their writing projects, providing feedback and strategies at any stage of the writing process. The Writing Center also supports faculty in designing writing assignments and in-class writing activities.
If I want to use multimedia in my teaching, what resources exist across campus?
- Instructional technology services are provided by several units on campus, including the following units that may be of immediate interest to new faculty.
Academic Computing offers a variety of resources, including:
- Academic Course Web Sites. Many faculty use web sites to complement their in-class teaching. UMass Amherst supplies the SPARK interface for this purpose. Information on building your course website with SPARK is available online.
- Instructional Media Lab. The lab provides consultants who will help you utilize web technologies in your teaching, including scanning pictures/slides, using image files, putting video on the web or on DVDs, and creating PDF files.
- Information on the instructional technology available in classrooms across campus can be found online. In addition, there are 11 computer classrooms. You can reserve one of these classrooms for a single session or a semester. Classrooms get filled far in advance, so make your reservations early.
- Academic Media Instructional Services (“AIMS”) allows you to select, schedule, or use films, videotapes and instructional equipment in your classroom. Available equipment includes: data projectors, 16 mm and 8 mm projectors, 35 mm slide projectors, projection screens, tape recorders, record players, VHS players, extension cords, films and videotapes on a wide variety of subjects. Preview/reserve a week ahead of time.
- As of Fall 2011, the UMass Amherst began supporting i>clicker as the campus' main Audience Response System (ARS). For more information about the ARS or to receive a demonstration of the technology, visit the OIT blog or email OIT.
- UMass Amherst also provides an Online Web-based Learning homework system (“OWL”).
- Both the Center for Teaching & Faculty Development and Academic Computing through the Office of Information Technology offer workshops and one-on-one consulting to support your instructional technology needs.
How do I manage my course(s), e.g. roster, schedules, grades, etc.?
The SPIRE system allows you to undertake all of the activities related to managing your courses each semester. You will receive a SPIRE login through your department. If you do not, you can generate a SPIRE login by using the “Forgot My Password” function on the SPIRE logon page. To learn more about managing your class rosters, schedules, grades, and more, please visit the SPIRE Faculty Center.
How do I put course material on reserve?
You can take advantage of either of the two systems below for reserving reference materials for your students:
How and when can I put together a course pack for my class?
The University’s Textbook Annex, CopyCat Print Shop, and Collective Copies provide course pack reproduction services. In order to have your pack ready in a timely manner, the Textbook Annex suggests that you allow 4-9 weeks to ensure full copyright approval and sufficient copy time. CopyCat and Collective Copies suggest that you allow a minimum of 3 weeks. Submit 1) a printed, single-sided copy of your course material and 2) a complete bibliography including the name, title, publisher, date of publication, and page numbers to obtain copyright approval (the copy center will do this for you). You may also be asked to sign an indemnification form to assume responsibility for reproducing non-copyrighted material.
Copyright fees are determined by the publisher, and the copyright charge is included in the total price of the course pack. When considering which material to include in your pack, keep in mind that copyright approval typically will not be given if you plan to copy more than 15% of a source. In some cases, publishers rarely allow reproduction of a certain text and/or charge a prohibitively high copyright fee.
Contact information for each service provider is listed below.
How do I establish a text for my course? What are the best bookstores?
In order to establish a text for your course, submit the title, author, publisher and edition to one of the bookstores below as soon as possible to avoid a book shortage. Requests made at least one month prior to the beginning of classes allow the bookstore to acquire more used copies. Typically, book stores are able to acquire free or loaned copies for the Professor, TAs, and to place on reserve. These are sent directly to you.
In choosing where to order your texts, it’s important to seek out the advice of colleagues in your department who teach classes at a similar level (i.e., graduate or undergraduate) and find out where they make their arrangements. In some departments, graduate students may be accustomed to purchasing their books at one store and undergraduates at another.
Contact information for local (on and off-campus) bookstores is listed below.
What is the University’s policy on academic dishonesty? What are my options if I suspect a student has cheated?
If you suspect a student of academic dishonesty, contact the University Ombuds Office
at 545-0867 and request a copy of the pamphlet entitled, “What to Do If You Suspect Academic Dishonesty: A Guide for Faculty and Instructors.”
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