On August 27th, the Centre for Innovation and Excellence offered its bi-annual New Faculty Orientation to Teaching (NFOT) to 30 new faculty at VIU.  This day-long session is offered to “new and kind of new” faculty within their first two years of teaching at VIU who are looking for fresh ideas on how to engage their students in thinking and problem-solving right from the first day of class. It’s fast-moving, fun for us and fun for them, and full of ideas on how faculty can ‘engineer’ situations so that their students actually begin to care about the subject matter (even if they didn’t when they first darkened the door of the classroom!).  

The event is intentionally designed as an experience of the active classroom. Participants troubleshoot problematic situations, debate ideas in small groups, offer new solutions to problems in whole-class discussions, and reflect on their own best (and worst!) learning experiences.  All of this is intended to inform the experience they plan to create for their own students when they start up the semester.  The activities featured in the session are easily adapted to any classroom. Participants (re)discover and discuss best practices for fostering student autonomy and responsibility for learning, and how to build a sense of community in the classroom.  Together, we also explore the learning technologies VIU has to offer: what they’re good for, when to use them—and when not to.  

“Thank you for creating such an engaging session. Lots of great ideas to keep the creative teaching juices flowing into the fall term. I especially appreciated the small teaching ideas you highlighted.”

Why do we design this event as a classroom experience?  Many faculty come thinking that a “Faculty Orientation” will be a stream of talking heads, explaining all the resources available for faculty at the University.  While VIU has a particularly well-thought out set of resources for students and faculty, our goal is with this session is to model teaching strategies in such a way that the participants can experience active learning for themselves.  We all know what it’s like to listen to a long lecture, but it may have been a long time ago that we ourselves have been immersed in a dynamic classroom discussion with our peers about the particular problems of our field. Getting faculty to delve into their own learning experiences and devise principles of teaching and learning together also gives them an opportunity to meet and work with colleagues from different disciplines across VIU.  Past participants have reported that when they run into someone from their NFOT cohort on campus throughout the Fall semester, they feel more at home, and see VIU as a larger community within which they teach.

Collaboration with faculty from different disciplines; was great to see their perspectives.”

So, apart from the fact that it is always fun for us to meet new faculty and to hear their ideas on teaching, the benefits of participating in this event are concrete ideas for:

  • Making the most of the first day of class
  • Designing classroom activities that challenge students to think reflectively and critically
  • Engaging students in productive discussions
  • Assimilating the culture of teaching and learning at VIU
  • Using teaching resources, and technologies available to VIU instructors

The next NFOT will take place in January 2020 where we’ll look forward to seeing more ‘new and newish’ faculty members for this ongoing conversation about how to teach, learn and laugh together as we send students on their way to new horizons.