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Faculty

A Note About the Data Sources

The Foundations of Excellence Faculty and Staff Survey was modified to include institution-specific measures and distributed to 545 faculty and staff members. The survey had 314 respondents (58 percent) in September 2011. Seventy-two respondents (23 percent) were faculty; 106 (34 percent) were administrators, senior leaders, deans or directors; 124 (39 percent) were professional staff; and 11 (four percent) were categorized as other (graduate student, technical/clerical personnel).

The consensus opinion from the Faculty Dimension Committee is that the survey was unsatisfactory. Some questions related to the Faculty Dimension were not specifically reflected in the survey. Additionally, survey design, expectations regarding use and application of the information gleaned was unsatisfactory. In many cases there was inadequate information regarding the actual respondents to each question, making it difficult to draw sound conclusions. Other concerns included the length of the survey and a belief it was unsatisfactory. It was specifically noted that drawing conclusions from bad data would result in bad conclusions.

Use of information provided through the current practices inventory (CPI) was also challenging. Often information included in the CPI lacked adequate detail to make it applicable in the discussion and decision-making process. The follow-up survey provided additional detail, which was still often inadequate to substantiate sound conclusions.

Given that the data sources were not representative of the task at hand, recommendations are based largely on collective feedback from group members. The committee cautions use of this data to direct action without additional assessment.

We created our own classification to include GTAs. The Foundations of Excellence process assumes faculty are primarily involved with teaching first-year students, but at Purdue, GTAs are routinely used in classroom and laboratory settings and provide a significant amount of teaching for first-year students. Few departments have the luxury to devote full-time faculty to all first-year classes, which is particularly true within the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Science.

The Faculty Committee noted that many students transfer within Purdue and outside of Purdue, resulting in additional first-year experiences that are not included in this type of assessment. The Committee also perceived an assumption that faculty don't spend enough time with first-year students. We were unsure of the source of that assumption.

Additionally, the Committee believes that Purdue offers an integrated package of education and disconnecting other students from first-year students makes little sense in terms of the bigger picture. More emphasis should be placed on the overall educational experience at Purdue, particularly given the fact that four-year graduation is a greater obstacle than retention.

There was consensus that it is important to provide a strong first-year experience for students. How this connects to faculty is less clear. There was a feeling that the Foundations of Excellence process is designed to be carried out more easily in smaller institutions. Given Purdue, its college system and the independence of the colleges and schools, different first-year experiences may occur depending on the academic unit. With the implementation of a core curriculum there may be opportunity to better identify activities that would most contribute to an excellent first-year experience.

Finally, concerns were raised about the identification of a single answer for the enhancement of all first-year experiences. It should not be overlooked that the diversity Purdue offers across colleges and schools has been a strength.

Overview of Faculty and Staff Survey Responses

The results of the Faculty and Staff Survey for faculty-related questions are listed in the following table.

Table 4-1. Results of Faculty and Staff Survey — Faculty-related Questions.[66]

Question Not at all/slight High/very high
To what degree is faculty involvement with first-year students considered important by institution leaders — 1 30% 36%
To what degree is faculty involvement with first-year students considered important by department/unit leaders — 2 13% 66%
To what degree is faculty involvement with first-year students considered important by colleagues — 3 18% 57%
To what degree is excellence in teaching first-year students acknowledged, recognized and/or rewarded by faculty colleagues — 4 57% 16%
To what degree is excellence in teaching first-year students acknowledged, recognized and/or rewarded by department/unit leader — 5 43% 36%
To what degree is excellence in teaching first-year students acknowledged, recognized and/or rewarded by institution leaders — 6 59% 16%
During the hiring process at this institution, to what degree are faculty responsibilities related to first-year students addressed by means of position descriptions — 7 57% 16%
During the hiring process at this institution, to what degree are faculty responsibilities related to first-year students addressed by candidate interviews — 8 51% 21%
During the new faculty orientation at this institution, to what degree were faculty responsibilities related to first-year students addressed — 9 64% 21%
  1. Responses were consistent across colleges/schools.
  2. Responses were lower for the colleges of Health and Human Sciences and Liberal Arts.
  3. Responses were lower for the colleges of Liberal Arts, Agriculture and Health and Human Sciences.
  4. Responses were generally lower for all colleges, with the lowest being the colleges of Liberal Arts, Agriculture and Science.
  5. Responses were generally lower for the colleges of Liberal Arts and Agriculture.
  6. Responses were generally lower for all colleges/schools.
  7. Responses were high for the College of Engineering and lower for the colleges of Liberal Arts, Agriculture and Science.
  8. Responses were high for the College of Engineering and lower for the colleges of Agriculture and Liberal Arts.
  9. Responses were generally low for all colleges/schools.

Teaching First-Year Students as a Priority

In the Faculty and Staff Survey, 252 respondents reported working directly with first-year students and having knowledge of institutional policies and procedures related to first-year students. Seventy-four (29.6 percent) of respondents indicated they had been involved with teaching first-year classes.

The mean response for factors associated with making the first year a priority and the importance of interacting with first-year students was 3.5. Mean responses were greater than 3.0 for all colleges except the College of Liberal Arts (2.8).

General consensus from the survey is that excellence in teaching of first-year students is not acknowledged effectively throughout all colleges/schools. The mean response was 2.6/5.0. The response was lowest for the College of Liberal Arts (2.2) and highest for the College of Engineering (2.82).

The data listed below show that that faculty and staff do not significantly believe that excellence in first-year teaching is acknowledged, recognized and/or rewarded by faculty colleagues, department/unit leaders and institution leaders.

Q059: To what degree is excellence in teaching first-year students acknowledged, recognized and/or rewarded by: Faculty colleagues?
57.1% reported Not at All (N=18) to Slight (N=26)
27.1% reported Moderate (N=19)
15.7% reported High (N=5) to Very High (N=11) N=70, Mean=2.41, Std Dev=1.19
Q060: To what degree is excellence in teaching first-year students acknowledged, recognized and/or rewarded by: Department/unit leaders?
42.9% reported Not at All (N=12) to Slight (N=18)
21.4% reported Moderate (N=15)
35.7% reported High (N=13) to Very High (N=12) N=70, Mean=2.93, Std Dev=1.35
Q061: To what degree is excellence in teaching first-year students acknowledged, recognized and/or rewarded by: Institution leaders?
58.8% reported Not at All (N=18) to Slight (N=22)
25.0% reported Moderate (N=17)
16.2% reported High (N=8) to Very High (N=3) N=56, Mean=2.27, Std Dev=1.26

Concerns with this evidence:

  1. Survey questions do not match the three rewards-related items requested in Performance Indicator 4.1. Both ratings include recognitions, acknowledgements and rewards. "Reward" on the Performance Indicator includes campus-wide recognition and acknowledgement in the campus reward structure (e.g., promotion and tenure, annual salary), whereas the meaning of reward on the survey is unknown.
  2. Typically, staff does not have access to promotional and tenure information, nor is the information about how faculty salaries are determined open to the public.
  3. Typically, staff does not have access to promotional and tenure information, nor is the information about how faculty salaries are determined open to the public.
  4. No known data is available to assist in assessing substantial out-of-class faculty interaction with first-year students.
  5. No known data is available for assessing to what degree the institution makes the first year a priority for faculty teaching assignments.

Campus-Level Encouragement

Data for this question did not seem to be a part of the Purdue data set, so considerations for this factor are based on anecdotal observations and data from a supplemental survey. Coursework for first-year students is built around introductory math, science (i.e., biology, chemistry, physics), English and orientation classes. Many of the first-year classes are taught using large lectures. The class size and room design is not conducive to using pedagogies of engagement. However, many of these classes also include recitation and laboratory sections that make engagement with the student easier. CIE conducts workshops on ways to improve large lecture classes and these workshops contain several helpful suggestions for improving student engagement. Technologies have been developed to encourage student engagement with tools such as i-clicker, BoilerCast, Adobe Connect, BlackBoard Scholar, Confluence WIKI, HotSeat, Mixable and Signals. BoilerCast and i-clicker are the oldest of these technologies. While these technologies have some promise for improving first-year student engagement, the adoption is small. To encourage the adoption of student-centered instruction in introductory classes, IMPACT helps faculty with the integration of technology and active learning pedagogies.

The supplemental survey indicates that student engagement goes beyond the classroom. Colleges and some departments have an orientation class that is required of first-year students. These classes introduce students to their professions and inform students of the resources and opportunities that are available to them. Some colleges provide academic study tables or tutors to help students obtain answers to their coursework questions. There are welcome events at the beginning of the year provided by many departments that allow first-year students to become better acquainted with faculty members. The creation of Learning Communities is another method that has been developed to engage students.

The reliance on large lecture sections for many first-year classes makes the use of pedagogies of engagement difficult to adopt. Technology aids are still new. They may help to increase student engagement in the future, but at the time adoption rates are low.

To what degree do senior academic leaders encourage faculty to understand the campus-wide learning goals for the first year?

This is rather difficult to address, since at the onset of the Foundations of Excellence process Purdue did not have a core undergraduate curriculum. Apart from retention, it is unclear that there are measurable campus-wide learning goals. The results to the questions below seem to confirm that perception. It is interesting, however, that there is a greater perception that departments/units operate with a common philosophy for first year. The validity of this data does seem questionable, as only 58 faculty members University-wide responded to these questions.

Q011. The following questions will ask your perceptions regarding first-year students at your institution. Philosophy (a rationale that guides educational goals and practices) — To what degree: Has an institutional philosophy for the first/freshman year of college been communicated to you?
246 respondents, mean score 2.52
Q013. The following questions will ask your perceptions regarding first-year students at your institution. Philosophy (a rationale that guides educational goals and practices) — To what degree: Does this institution operate from a commonly held philosophy for the first/freshman year?
233 respondents, mean score 2.44
Q014. The following questions will ask your perceptions regarding first-year students at your institution. Philosophy (a rationale that guides educational goals and practices) — To what degree: Does your department/unit operate from a commonly held philosophy for the first/freshman year?
241 respondents, mean score 3.49

From the Deans and Department Heads Survey, it is clear that all colleges that participated have some program that targets at least a portion of the first-year student population. The support for such programs indicates academic unit leaders clearly support efforts for first-year students.

To what degree do senior academic leaders (e.g., vice presidents, deans) encourage faculty to understand the characteristics of first-year students at this campus?

We have three main sources of data for this Performance Indicator—the Faculty and Staff Survey, the follow-up Deans and Department Heads Survey and the CPI. Few, if any, of the questions ask about this specific issue. Very little of the data can be disaggregated from the whole and related directly to understanding of senior academic leaders of the characteristics of first-year students at Purdue. Any finding from this dataset to address this criterion would be mostly inference and/or extrapolation, because it is not clear if the responses are from or directed to senior academic leaders.

Related FOE Survey Data

[D001] 106 of 313 respondents (33.9 percent) to the Foundations of Excellence survey identified themselves as senior academic leaders (may include department and unit heads).

[D002] 252 of 293 respondents (senior academic leaders and all others, 86 percent total) claim knowledge of institutional practices and policies regarding the first year of college.

Institutional philosophy could indicate a shared, base understanding of first-year students. The majority of respondents think this philosophy is important [Q011]; however the majority does not think it has been communicated to them [Q013].

One could extrapolate from awareness and understanding of the top three programs [Q18] and most successful approaches [Q19] that address first-year experience an understanding of the characteristics of first-year students. Participation in these programs or utilization of these approaches could possibly be correlated with better understanding of first-year experience and characteristics of first-year students; however, this is not established in the study.

Questions that relate to sub-populations provide some evidence of characterizing first-year students and identifying/addressing special needs that groups of them may have: honors [Q036], academic deficiencies [Q037], learning disabilities [Q038], physical disabilities [Q039], athletes [Q040], minorities [Q041], high school students [Q042] and international students [OQ8].

Many questions address needs that may reflect an understanding of characteristics of first-year students, although their data may not directly: students' preparedness to handle the academic demands of college [OC1], co-curricular involvement [OQ2], financial management [OQ3], time management [OQ4], physical well-being [OQ5], mental wellness [OQ6] and diverse interactions [OQ7].

Research and dissemination of research [QC10] on first-year experience and departments acting on it [QC11] would suggest an understanding of characteristics of first-year students as they would be the target of such research.

The summative question for this criterion may be, "To what degree does Purdue provide useful information regarding the educational characteristics of first-year students to faculty and staff?" [OQ9], to which a majority (54.5 percent) responded "Not at All" or "Slight" and only 8.7 percent responded "Well" or "Very Well."

Related Follow-Up Survey Data

The follow-up survey of deans and department heads was conducted with questions from the Committees; 14 of 64 respondents identified themselves as being deans or representing deans. This population is a closer match for this criterion than the Faculty and Staff Survey. The survey was branched, but it is not clear from the report which questions were answered by senior academic administrators. Some questions have only six or seven responses (either these were branched to deans or the completion rate of the survey was very low). We request branching information to separate responses of senior academic leaders.

Faculty who completed the survey indicated that they believe Purdue prioritizes understanding the needs and characteristics of first-year students, but it is not communicated to the individual faculty level. There appears to be a disconnect in communicating the message. Expecting the faculty to extract information from the Data Digest is unrealistic.

The follow-up survey showed training and structures for GTAs were well done, but less so for new faculty. Perhaps there is an assumption associated with title (faculty versus non-faculty). Greater attention should be paid to mentoring faculty teaching across the University.

As discussed, much of the teaching for first-year students is in large lecture-type classes that are not conducive to pedagogies of engagement. CIE offers instruction and assistance for individuals teaching large classes to make them more engaging. IT has sought to bring technology to the large classroom. These techniques have worked in some classrooms. Adoption appears to be fairly low. Efforts are being made, but significant opportunities remain.

To what degree do unit-level academic administrators encourage faculty to use pedagogies of engagement in first-year courses, understand unit-level learning goals for entry-level courses, and understand discipline-specific trends and issues related to entry-level courses?

Two respondents to the Deans and Department Heads Survey defined the first-year experience, as reflected below:

"We define first-year experience as a combination of curricular and co-curricular activities and efforts aimed at new students (primarily first-year students) that are focused on these students' academic success, personal and developmental well-being and eventually lead to their graduation." (College of Agriculture)

"First-year experience is defined as an opportunity to orient students to the chosen fields, get involved in related activities on campus and in the community and meet students in their majors." (Unknown)

Given the lack of consensus between the two respondents and lack of definitions from other colleges/schools, Purdue may wish to define and disseminate expectations for the first-year experience and disseminate the expectation.

Several colleges/schools target first-year students through their programs, including curriculum. Examples of responses are as follows:

  • Supplemental Instruction, peer mentoring, Academic Boot Camp, BEST (tutoring), A-game, Learning Communities and miscellaneous department initiatives.
  • Through our efforts in MANRRS and working closely with the College of Agriculture Office of Multicultural Programs
  • Most of our units have the introductory course for the unit that introduces students to their professions. We typically have some sort of welcome event that is marketed to all faculty and new students. We use Parents Day for this as well. We do less now than we used to because of STAR, BGR and the Common Reading Program.
  • Two Learning Communities; orientation where faculty are asked to volunteer and participate in orientation discussion groups at the beginning of the year; student organizations advised by faculty representatives; Read to Succeed community outreach effort promoted through email and announcements within departments.
  • We have a pre-semester program for students that builds science and math skills as well as study skills.

The supplemental survey also identified certain student sub-populations including women and underrepresented minorities, Students in Education Enhancing Diversity (SEED), DeVito, Presidential and Trustee Scholars, FEELS students (Food, Environment, Engineering, Life Sciences) and HORIZON students.

Reported metrics of success beyond first-year retention rates for students include the percentage of students participating in various programs, successful entry into the professional program and feedback from a survey of entering first-year students (administered for more than 25 years).

Staff identified as specifically dedicated to first-year students include Director of Diversity (aimed at women and underrepresented minorities), Academic Excellence Coordinator (retention), Honors Program and Pathway to Purdue program.

Programs cited that encourage faculty involvement in the first-year experience include Learning Communities, some department-specific initiatives (not specifically listed) and a Leadership program. It was noted that promoting faculty involvement in the first-year experience would have to include recognition and rewards for such activities. Faculty that are currently involved tend to be more senior faculty that understand and appreciate the value and role of undergraduate students at Purdue.

The percentage of total faculty reported to teach first-year students ranged from zero percent to 45 percent, with significant variability among departments. The total number of faculty reported to teach first-year students was 136. Recognizing our supplemental survey is not a comprehensive view of the University in total, given the relatively small numbers of individuals reported to teach first-year students, initiatives targeted at those individuals could be considered.

Unit-Level Encouragement: To what degree do unit-level academic administrators encourage faculty to do the following?

Use pedagogies of engagement in first-year courses

Two core requirements are included in the plans of study for almost all Purdue first-year students: ENGL 10600 (First-Year Composition) or ENGL 10800 (Accelerated Composition) and COM 11400 (Fundamentals of Speech Communication). All of these courses are taught in small sections (enrollment is capped at 28 in COM 11400, at 20 in ENGL 10600/10800), so they are designed with pedagogies of engagement in mind and typically include such activities such as oral presentations, discussion, group projects, etc. Almost none of the sections of these courses are taught by full-time tenure-track faculty; rather, course sections are taught primarily by GTAs and limited-term lecturers, along with some continuing lecturers.

The first-year experience for students in each college is difficult to assess. Students in the College of Liberal Arts (with 4,256 undergraduates as of fall 2011) often take courses that have smaller enrollments (under 40 students), which are more easily designed to employ pedagogies of engagement. Furthermore, all College of Liberal Arts undergraduates are required to meet proficiency in a foreign language, so they are likely to experience a highly interactive course in their first year. The College of Engineering (with 7,087 undergraduates as of fall 2011) is the largest college at Purdue and is noteworthy for requiring ENGR 13100-13200 (Transforming Ideas to Innovation I and II [or the honors equivalent]) for all first-year students. This course is designed to involve interactive problem-solving activities and collaborative group work and is typically taught by full-time faculty. The College of Health and Human Sciences is the second largest college at Purdue (4,547 undergraduates as of fall 2011), but does not have a college-wide core curriculum, so it is difficult to assess the first-year experience for their students. These three colleges together have 15,890 undergraduates or 51.6 percent of all undergraduates at Purdue, so any initiatives that involve these colleges will impact many first-year students. (Any initiative including the College of Technology, College of Science and College of Agriculture, in addition to the other three colleges cited above would impact the majority of first-year students at Purdue, since together the six colleges enroll 25,205 undergraduates [82 percent] of all undergraduates at Purdue.)

Honors offerings for first-year students are substantial across the University. The University Honors Program offers five sections of a first-year seminar (HONR 19900) per semester, all on a unique and provocative topic, taught by full-time faculty and with enrollment limits that allow for significant interaction and discussion. Several colleges and departments also offer honors seminars for their first-year students: the College of Science (SCI 11000), First-Year Engineering (ENGR 10500), Biology (BIOL 19700), Computer Science (CS 19500) and others. The launch of the University Honors College in fall 2013 will further enhance the first-year experience for high-performing incoming students by bringing them into direct contact with inspiring faculty.

Understand unit-level learning goals for entry-level courses

Assessing the commitment to setting unit-level learning goals in courses for first-year students is complicated. The tiered sections developed for core courses for first-year students at Purdue in the departments of Chemistry and Mathematics offer one means of measuring this objective. Chemistry offers different levels of the first-year course, designed with specific student constituencies in mind: CHM 11100-11200 (General Chemistry for non-College of Science students), CHM 1150011600 (General Chemistry I and II), CHM 12300-12400 (General Chemistry for Engineers I and II), CHM 12500-12600 (Intro to Chemistry I and II) and CHM 13500-13600 (General Chemistry Honors). Similarly, Math offers several different versions of the first-year Calculus course sequence: MA 16100-16200 (Plane Analytic Geometry and Calculus I and II), MA 16500 (Analytic Geometry and Calculus I), MA 17300 (Calculus And Analytic Geometry II), MA 18100-18200H (Honors Calculus I and II), MA 22100-22200 (Calculus for Technology I and II) and MA 23100-23200 (Calculus for the Life Sciences I and II).

In addition, the composition requirement for first-year students has options to meet student needs and interest. ENGL 10600 is the regular course that most students take, but there are also dedicated sections for international students (ENGL 10600 I), as well as 26 sections of the course tied into various Learning Communities initiatives. High-performing students are eligible to take ENGL 10800, a course that combines composition and service-learning or community engagement.

One institutional change in recent years also relates to this criteria. The Registrar's Office revised Form 40, which is used to approve new courses and revise courses, in order to include information about specific learning outcomes and goals for every course. This institutional change could be helpful in communicating the need for faculty to be very clear about designing a course syllabus that matches the outcomes on file for any given course.

Understand the discipline-specific trends and issues related to entry-level courses

IMPACT shows that there is administrative encouragement at Purdue for making sure that entry-level courses are up-to-date in dealing with current issues and disciplinary trends. Twenty courses have been selected for re-design in 2012-13 and that number will increase to 30 courses for the 2013-14 year. Common first-year courses being redesigned during the current academic year include CHM 11500 and 11600, MA 15400, BIOL 13100, POL 10100 and PSY 12000. The goal is to transform courses that enroll a sizable number of undergraduates in such a way that they employ "a more enhanced student-centered approach that is informed by research and aimed at enhancing student learning, competence and confidence"—goals in keeping with our engaged pedagogies criteria as well.

First-year students at Purdue also can participate in Learning Communities, as described earlier. For 2011-12, Purdue is offering 43 unique Learning Communities (63 total Learning Communities), with approximately 1,663 first-year students participating. The program has the capacity to serve up to 2,000 undergraduates, which would allow approximately one-third of all first-year students to participate. For the 130 course sections offered through the Learning Communities program this year, the number of sections taught by tenure-track or tenured faculty is 25 percent, lecturers is 11 percent, GTAs is 38 percent and staff is 26 percent.

Events for Learning Communities involve fun events related to students' academic interests, service projects, socials and opportunities to interact with faculty and staff involved in different areas of academic interest. This proves beneficial, as there is a closer relationship between the faculty and staff and first-year students. The students can learn more from the faculty and staff, while employees can also receive direct feedback from students. An important note is that the feedback is being received as the classes are being taught, not having to rely on feedback from the class in a previous semester and not at the end of the semester when no action can be taken. Because Purdue has shown a commitment to growing the number of Learning Communities offered and increasing capacity for first-year students, we see this commitment as evidence that there is unit-level and administrative encouragement for making sure that entry-level courses fulfill "discipline-specific trends" and meet "learning goals" that are coordinated across courses and departments.

Further Context: The Pedagogical Challenge

Attempting to improve student success vis-à-vis peer institutions is a challenge, in part, because as a land-grant institution, Purdue appears to be less selective in its admission practices. Consider the SAT data for the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) universities below.

  SAT Scores  
  Reading Math Writing  
  25% 75% 25% 75% 25% 75%
Illinois 540 660 690 780 590 680
Indiana 510 630 540 650 510 620
Iowa 450 630 540 685 - -
Michigan 630 730 670 770 650 750
Michigan State 440 600 540 670 450 600
Minnesota 540 690 610 740 550 670
Nebraska 510 660 520 670 - -
Northwestern 680 750 700 780 680 770
Ohio State 540 660 600 700 550 650
Penn State 530 630 560 670 530 640
Purdue 490 610 550 690 500 610
Wisconsin 530 670 620 740 580 670

Since success in higher education reflects, in part, the preparedness of incoming first-year students, we expect that some percentage of first-year students will not be retained and many will not complete an undergraduate program in a timely fashion, possibly ever.

Consequently, the faculty faces an important challenge, especially since the number of tenure-track faculty is in decline. To meet the large enrollments, many departments have no choice but to offer introductory courses in very large sections. Some of our colleges (e.g., Engineering) have established first-year programs that meet the needs of first-year students. However, most of our colleges do not.

Our feeling overall is that Purdue does an adequate to good job of providing first-year students with diverse educational environments (especially given our enrollment numbers and constrained resources). We offer some instruction in large lectures, but also offer many small, discussion-based classes. Some of the classes are led by faculty, while others are led by enthusiastic GTAs and lecturers.

Overall, consensus is that there is no reward for faculty to focus on the first-year teaching. It was noted there are a number of different types of recognition programs within the University focused on teaching excellence. These do not differentiate first-year teaching. The promotion and tenure document utilized University-wide includes a learning section.

Purdue understands and values teaching. There is clear evidence that faculty members must be competent teachers to be promoted and/or tenured. The relationship between the merit salary process and faculty interaction with first-year students should be clarified.

There is a reward in the form of a small stipend for faculty who are associated with Learning Communities. Engagement with first-year students is frequently included on activity reports used in the merit-salary process.

To what degree are expectations for involvement with first-year students clearly communicated to newly hired full-time faculty, newly hired part-time/adjunct instructors, continuing full-time and part-time adjunct faculty?

Incorporation of expectations for involvement with first-year students into the hiring and orientation process was generally rated low with an overall mean of 2.4/5.0. The response was lowest for the College of Liberal Arts (1.89) and highest for the College of Engineering (4.0).

The Deans and Department Heads Survey helped us to better understand ways expectations about teaching first-year students have been communicated to faculty. A summary of responses is shown in the table below.

Table 4-3. Summary of responses to Deans and Department Heads Survey.[68]

Method of Communication Percent of Respondents Applying Method
End-of-course feedback 75%
One-on-one meetings 57%
Center for Instructional Excellence 50%
Other (pedagogic orientation sessions, guidance from Undergraduate Program Coordinator) 21%
Assigned mentors 18%
Faculty seminars 7%

Thirty-six percent of respondents indicated communication is different with newly hired faculty who have responsibilities for teaching first-year students than with continuing faculty with similar responsibilities while 64 percent of respondents indicated no difference.

In addition to faculty, departments reported zero to 100 percent of part-time/adjunct instructors teach first-year students, with significant variability among departments. A total of 29 individuals serving in this capacity were identified through the survey. The methods in the following table were reported to communicate expectations to part-time/adjunct instructors teaching first-year students.

Table 4-4. Summary of responses to Deans and Department Heads Survey.[69]

Method of Communication Percent of Respondents Applying Method
Other (support group, course orientation sessions and materials, faculty and lecturers serving as coordinators for instruction) 64%
Assigned mentors 45%
One-on-one meetings 45%
Assigned mentors 36%
Center for Instructional Excellence 27%

Twenty-two percent of respondents indicated communication is different with newly hired faculty who have responsibilities for teaching first-year students than with continuing faculty with similar responsibilities, while 78 percent of respondents indicated no difference.

In addition to faculty and part-time/adjunct instructors, GTAs also teach first-year students. Departments reported that a range of zero to 100 percent of GTAs teach first-year students, with significant variability among departments. A total of 370 individuals serving as GTAs were reported as teaching first-year students through this survey.

Various processes were reported for selection, training, monitoring and providing feedback to GTAs who provide instruction for first-year students. These include:

  • Working with an experienced faculty mentor who trains, monitors and provides feedback
  • Individuals are chosen from among the most academically accomplished doctoral students to provide them with exposure to teaching as a possible career
  • Teaching workshops
  • Observation of teaching videos; review of teaching audiotapes
  • Teaching seminars; uniform required GTA orientation (two days) prior to the start of the fall semester; intense two-week sessions before first class with required meetings, feedback sessions and classroom observation
  • GTAs in our department do not teach first-year students in a classroom setting, but manage help sessions, hold office hours and grade assignments; others coordinate laboratory sessions
  • Lead faculty identify graduate students who know the material and are patient communicators; graduate performance is evaluated before selection
  • Graduate students are asked about interest in teaching; they are encouraged to complete the Graduate Teacher Certificate Program
  • Faculty coordinators select and mentor teaching assistants

Respondents shared the following information regarding differences in the process for selection, training, monitoring and providing feedback between faculty and/or part-time/adjunct instructors versus teaching assistants.

  • Some departments do not use newly hired faculty to teach first-year students
  • Faculty training often includes teaching workshops which may be encouraged to a greater degree if student evaluations or peer review suggest additional mentoring is required
  • Some departments use a similar process for new instructors, but not those who are experienced
  • Faculty are encouraged to use resources available through the CIE
  • The process for orienting faculty/instructors is far less rigorous than for GTAs

To what degree are expectations for involvement with first-year students clearly communicated to the following groups?

  1. Newly hired full-time faculty.
  2. Newly hired part-time/adjunct instructors.
  3. Continuing full-time and part-time adjunct faculty.

Concerns with this Performance Indicator include:

  1. Faculty at Purdue are not typically hired just to teach first-year courses.
  2. There may be confusion about the definition of "first-year courses" as opposed to "foundational" courses.
  3. The questions have inherent ambiguity. They imply that all faculty will be involved with first-year students, whereas the expectation might be that the faculty member or adjunct instructor in question might never be expected to teach foundational or first-year courses.
  4. There was no mention of our process to communicate expectations to the group that teaches many of the first-year courses at Purdue: graduate instructors.
  5. It is too restrictive to focus just on the first-year experience, when we anticipate good teaching at all levels.

We used information from questions 70, 71 and 73 to help grade our performance indicators.

Q70 asked how the institution relayed informed incoming faculty about responsibilities related to first-year students during the hiring process. The mean response for this question was 2.27. More than half of the respondents said that the institution performed this at the level of "slight" or not at all. It does not appear that this is addressed very often at the University, college or departmental level during the hiring process.

The Committee did not feel this was a big shortcoming, since very few newly hired faculty would have primary responsibility for first-year students.

Q71 sought to determine to what responsibilities for first-year students are conveyed during the candidate interviews. The mean for this question was 2.51, with the majority again finding this was done at the level of "Slight" or "Not at All." Again, the Committee did not find this a significant shortcoming.

Q73 asked about how responsibilities for first-year students are conveyed during new faculty orientation. The mean response for this question was 2.29 and more than 60 percent believed the University was functioning at the "Slight" or "Not at All" level.

There is very little evidence that concerns of first-year students are addressed, although a representative from the Provost's office reported:

"At New Faculty Orientation, the Vice President of Student Affairs and Vice Provost for Academic Undergraduate Affairs addresses the group and talks about the characteristics of first-year students on our campus."

The Committee was unsure about what types of characteristics are presented by the Vice President of Student Affairs and the Vice Provost for Academic Undergraduate Affairs in these presentations, but there was some concern that certain types of presentations can actually create stereotypes and minimize the abilities of incoming students (e.g., the Beloit College[70] list that attempts to understand the "mindset" of 18-year-olds). That said, information regarding the characteristics of first-year students should be shared more broadly, particularly with department heads who are the closest "leaders" to those faculty and staff actually interacting with first-year students. Rather than explanations of student "mindsets," our focus could be on behaviors that we already know are common. For example, first-year students are often overwhelmed and require guidance, but do not acknowledge their uncertainty or seek assistance. Many first-year students do not take advantage of office hours and tutorial services because of fear and/or a perceived associated stigma. Reminding faculty and staff of the likelihood of such behaviors could be helpful in planning curriculum, in encouraging students to pursue opportunities for assistance and in terms of developing more targeted services and programming.

Additional information from the Deans and Department Heads Survey

The Committee needed more information than questions 70, 71 and 73 provided, so we asked for the following:

  1. How many of their faculty have primary responsibility for first-year students?
  2. What percentage of their total faculty have primary responsibility to teach first-year students?
  3. How do they communicate expectations about first-year students to these faculty members?
  4. Do they communicate differently with newly hired faculty as opposed to continuing faculty and if so, how?

Responses indicate that very few faculty members are hired specifically to teach beginning students. Of those who do have faculty teaching first-year students, processes for communicating with them about how to work with this group of students varies widely. For those deans and department heads who responded, about half do not have any formal way of communicating about first-year students with faculty. For those who did respond, several mentioned using the CIE. Several mentioned newly hired faculty do not need any specific mentoring related to teaching first-year students.

Added questions about GTAs

The Committee felt strongly that we needed to analyze the role of GTAs in courses heavily subscribed by first-year students. Specifically, we wanted to know the current processes for selecting, training, monitoring and offering feedback and evaluation about teaching to graduate students, so we asked deans and department heads similar questions to those above about GTAs.

We discovered that there are rich and varied processes across programs to train GTAs. These processes included:

  • Teaching workshops
  • Mentors Teaching seminars
  • Intensive training before classes start
  • Weekly meetings
  • Training programs monitored by faculty
  • Teaching observation
  • Course evaluations

The grades for communicating with newly hired full-time faculty, communicating with newly hired part-time/adjunct instructors and communicating with continuing full-time and part-time adjunct faculty were low. The Committee did not find this to be a significant problem, since a small percentage of these groups are tasked with working solely or even primarily with first-year students. The low weight we gave to these segments conveys the committee's relative lack of concern about these questions and the low ratings should not suggest that we use University resources to address these areas.

The committee realizes that GTAs were not included in this Performance Indicator, but after much discussion, we decided that GTAs are used so widely for first-year courses (English 106, Communication 114, Math 153-4, etc.) that it would be inappropriate to exclude the preparation that colleges, schools, departments and programs give GTAs.

Recommendations

  1. Prioritize repair, renovation and construction of classrooms that facilitate creative/innovative pedagogies of engagement, given the lack of flexibility in most classrooms (immobile furnishings).
  2. Encourage colleges to develop a longitudinal approach to curricular and co-curricular delivery that accounts for transition points (e.g., first year, CODO, senior year, co-op) within the student population.
  3. Maintain a plan for GTA training, mentoring and feedback for each department that uses GTAs for instruction in first-year classes.
  4. Implement a systematic approach to mentor faculty who provide teaching in foundation courses for first-year students. All first-time or new-to-profession faculty members should have a teaching mentor. Take advantage of existing resources including the Teaching Academy, CIE and University orientation for new faculty to share information about the instructional needs of first-year students and best practices associated with teaching.
  5. Provide supplemental funding for creative, curricular-related events and activities to augment classroom for first-year student intensive courses.
  6. Communicate faculty efforts targeting first-year students. Use the most promising initiatives to help further involve faculty to enhance the first-year experience for Purdue students. IMPACT, Learning Communities, the founding of the University Honors College, residential faculty fellows and the establishment of a University-wide core curriculum offer significant possibilities.
  7. Develop and communicate a high-level philosophy for the first-year experience for students.

65. Foundations of Excellence Foundational Dimensions® (Four-Year College Version). Foundations of Excellence. http://www.fyfoundations.org/4year.aspx (accessed July 12, 2012)

66. Source: Purdue Foundations of Excellence Task Force.

67. SAT Scores for Admission to the Big Ten. About.com. http://collegeapps.about.com/od/sat/a/big-ten-sat-scores.htm (accessed July 12, 2012)

68. Purdue Foundations of Excellence Task Force.

69. Ibid.

70. The Mindset List. Beloit College. http://www.beloit.edu/mindset/2015/ (accessed July 12, 2012)