Monday, October 16, 2017

Welcome to the Fall 2017 Graduate Teaching Community!

This quarter we will focus on the theme of "Equitable Access to Education: Supporting Students from Diverse Backgrounds". Meetings will be in Surge III, Room 1352 from 11 am - 12 pm on Thursdays. Specific topics for each meeting date are listed below.

  • October 12th: Introduction and Logistics
  • October 19th: First-Generation Student Populations
  • October 26th: Transfer Student Populations
  • November 2nd: Disengaged Student Populations
  • November 9th: Multilingual and International Student Populations
  • November 16th: Active Learning Strategies for All Populations
  • November 23rd: Thanksgiving (No meeting)
  • November 30th: CEE Teaching Resources
  • December 7th: Luncheon

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Research-intensive (R1) Universities

Contributed by: M. Rossi

Can we value teaching if we work at a research-intensive university?

In our final meeting for the quarter’s theme of “Teaching Beyond Graduate School,” two guest speakers and new professors at UC Davis shared their experiences, their passion for teaching and learning, and fielded our questions. Professor Mona Monfared is in her second year as a Lecturer with Potential for Security of Employment (LPSOE) in Molecular and Cellular Biology. This type of
position is a tenure track one, with its origins at UC San Diego and UC Irvine. These positions are “Professors of Teaching,” in contrast to “Professors of Research.” Still, she is responsible for both teaching and research; it is the workload ratios that vary. Dr. Monfared’s career trajectory included graduating from UC Davis in 2009, with her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, a post-doctorate fellowship from 2009 to 2011, and multiple adjunct positions before accepting her current position. As a recently hired professor last year, she engaged in a community of practice with
other new faculty members, under the leadership of the Center for Educational Effectiveness (CEE).

Professor Con Diaz joined UC Davis from Yale and is teaching in his first year in the Science and Technology Studies program as an Assistant Professor. He shared that while a graduate student, he specifically sought out opportunities to grow as a teacher and invested in his own teacher training, well outside of his own department. He found the support for which he was searching in a department analogous to our Center for Educational Effectiveness. In this capacity, he engaged in individual consultations, peer observations, and small workshop facilitation. He shared with our group that he really values teaching and communicates this to his colleagues. He is appreciative of the freedom to experiment with his teaching practices during his first year and also of his peers who similarly value teaching. Dr. Diaz has also connected with personnel from CEE to continue to build his pedagogical repertoire.

Both speakers shared insights and recommendations with our graduate students. They encouraged graduates to apply for positions outside of their comfort zones. Each had either first- or second-hand experience with opportunities born out of the least expected. We were also encouraged to ask insightful questions during interviews, including, “How important is teaching to your department?” They further advised us to search for a good “fit.” Speakers also spent some time discussing the value of student evaluations. The consensus was for us to look for patterns in the evaluations, not the outliers. Focusing on the trends, versus the isolated points of dissatisfaction, presents opportunities for growth and individual reflection of their own practice. They parted with one last tip: subscribe to a weekly newsletter published at Stanford, “Tomorrow’s Professor”.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Teaching-intensive (R2) Universities

Contributed by: Gabe LaHue

Our attention turned this week from adjunct positions and the associated labor issues to the benefits and challenges of being a full-time professor at a teaching-intensive university. We were lucky to host Tialitha Macklin, an Assistant Professor in English from California State University, Sacramento, who spoke to us about her experiences and advice.

Dr. Macklin's position is 60% teaching, 30% administration, and 10% research. This translates to teaching three courses each semester the first year and four courses each semester thereafter (commonly referred to as 3/3 and 4/4). It is clear that Dr. Macklin is extremely passionate about teaching and she advised us to avoid taking on too much of an administrative workload (to the degree possible), especially when first hired. Her research expectations are to publish a peer-reviewed article about once per year, and these publications can revolve around the work that one is doing in the classroom. She is a major professor for 5 - 10 graduate students and professors in her department serve on the thesis committees for all students since it is such a small department.

After giving us an idea of what her position entails, Dr. Macklin shared some advice about the job application and interview process for aspiring professors. First, she encouraged us to send out more applications, since it is frequently the applications that one doesn't expect to hear back from that pay off. Suggested questions to ask when interviewing included:
  • What is their favorite thing about the school? (Hint: It should be the students)
  • What percent of newly hired professors get tenure?
  • How many people are in the department?
  • Is there an opportunity to create new courses?
  • What is the work-life balance like at the institution?

This last question was particularly stressed, as maintaining an adequate work-life balance appeared to be one of the most challenging parts of working at a teaching-intensive university. However, for those that can maintain that balance or cope with a very demanding workload, working at this type of university can be very rewarding.

Special thanks to GTC member Stacy Wittstock for inviting our speaker for this week.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Adjuncts and Academic Labor

Contributed by: Stacy Wittstock, PhD Student, School of Education

Adjuncts and other contingent faculty have increasingly been bearing the important burden of teaching in colleges and universities across the US. As the availability of tenure track positions shrinks, only to be replaced by more non-tenure track contingent faculty, short-term contracts and part-time positions have gradually become the norm in higher education. Faculty in these positions face low-pay, job insecurity, poor working conditions, lack of support from departments and institutions, and little or no benefits normally available to their colleagues in full-time or tenure track positions. Ultimately, this trend presents serious concerns for both non-tenure track and tenure track faculty, university administrators, and most importantly, students.

What are Adjuncts?
·      Contingent faculty—full- and part-time non-tenure track instructional staff
·      Adjunct—part-time instructors for primarily entry-level courses (depending on the school)
·      According to the American Association of University Professors:
o   More than 50% of all faculty appointments are part-time
§  This can include “positions that may be classified by the institution as adjuncts, part-time lecturers, or graduate assistantships.”
o   More than 70% of all instructional staff positions in American higher education are non-tenure track
·      Some statistics:
o   A 2012 report from the Center for the Future of Higher Education found that:
§  77% of respondents teach in part-time, contingent positions
§  54% teach in more than one institution
§  29% teach in two institutions
§  11% teach in three institutions
§  6% teach in four institutions
§  52% teach in four year institutions
§  14% teach in both two and four year institutions
§  59% teach in at least one position governed by a collective bargaining agreement
o   Additionally, the National Center for Education Statistics found that in 2013, that the majority of non-tenure track instructors and lecturers are women (see Figure 1 below).
o   Finally, trends in employment in higher education in the last 50 years have demonstrated that full-time faculty (non-tenure and tenure track) positions have decreased, corresponding with an increase in part-time positions (see Figure 2 below).

Adjunct Wages
       The median per-class wage for a semester-long course for adjuncts in $2,700
       In 2013, NPR found that adjuncts’ average annual pay is between $20,000 and $25,000
       In a survey of 500 adjuncts, Pacific Standard found in 2015 that the majority of participants earned less than $20,000 per year
       A 2015 report from UC Berkeley found that 25% of adjuncts receive public assistance like Medicaid or food stamps
       Because they are part-time, adjuncts typically are not eligible for health insurance, or other benefits (e.g., retirement, life insurance, etc.)

Working Conditions
       “Freeway Flyers”: Many adjuncts work at multiple institutions (AAUP; CFHEP, 2012)
       Some adjuncts teach between 18-24 contact hours, or 6-8 classes at various institutions
       Most do not have offices, access to computer support, or even copying services
       They lack the job security, with contracts that run term-to-term and can be ”non-renewed” at any time
       ”Just-in-Time” employment: most are not informed of employment until shortly before the term starts, making finding other employment difficult
       Adjuncts are typically not allowed to be involved in any sort of departmental or institutional governance
       Many cannot attend departmental faculty meetings, serve on departmental or institutional committees or serve as advisors
       This is bad for both NTT and TT faculty, as this leaves an often incredible workload for TT faculty

So, What Happened?
       The myth is that the adjunct crisis was caused by the Great Recession and subsequent cuts to higher education funding
       However, according to the AAUP,  “the turn towards cheaper contingent labor is largely a matter of priorities rather than economic necessity.”
       “While many institutions are currently suffering budget cuts, the greatest growth in contingent appointments occurred during times of economic prosperity.”
       “Many institutions have invested heavily in facilities and technology while cutting instructional spending.”
       “Though incoming students may find finer facilities, they are also likely to find fewer full-time faculty with adequate time, professional support, and resources available for their instruction.”

The Effects on Students
       Because of the excessive demands on their time, and the likelihood that they are working at multiple institutions (AAUP; CFHEP, 2012):
       Adjuncts have less time to support students outside of the classroom and may lack spaces in which to do so
       Adjuncts often have less time to plan lessons, and even courses themselves
       There is often far less scrutiny on the hiring of adjuncts than on full-time NTT or TT faculty
       According to the AAUP,  “The high turnover among contingent faculty members mean that some students may never have the same teacher twice, or may be unable to find an instructor who knows them well enough to write a letter of recommendation.”

The Effects on Faculty
       Less full-time NTT and TT faculty means:
       The integrity of work in the department as a whole is lowered when so many levels of faculty are responsible for teaching
       All departmental responsibilities are saddled on TT faculty (i.e., advising students, setting departmental curriculum, programmatic assessment and research, serving on college-wide and departmental committees)
       Academic freedom itself is jeopardized when only TT faculty have access to protections
       Contingent faculty are less likely to take risks in the classroom
       Many may not receive any evaluations of their teaching or work

Chronicle Data. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Smith, J. (2015, Feb.). National adjunct walkout and awareness day (Public accessible presentation). Retrieved from

Background Facts on Contingent Faculty. (n.d.). Retrieved from

McKenna, L. (2015, May). The cost of an adjunct. Retrieved from

National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). Fast facts: Race/ethnicity of college faculty. Retrieved from

Curtis, J. & Thornton, S. (2013). Here’s the news: The annual report on the economic status of the profession, 2012-2013. American Association of University Professors. Retrieved from

Center for the Future of Higher Education. (2012). Policy report #2: Who is Professor “Staff,” and how can this person teach so many classes? Center for the Future of Higher Education. Retrieved from 

Figure 1: Percentage distribution of full-time instructional faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by academic rank, selected race/ethnicity, and sex: Fall 2013

Figure 2: Trends in Instructional Staff Employment Status, 1975-2011

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Teaching Support Structures at UC Davis

Contributed By: Gabriel LaHue

We took a slight detour from our quarter theme this week, and rather than looking at what teaching opportunities exist outside of UC Davis, we focused on structures to support teaching here on campus and the Center for Educational Effectiveness (CEE) in particular. Education Specialist Dr. Patricia Turner gave us an overview of CEE and the Associate Director of the CEE, Dr. Kem Saichaie, followed up by speaking in greater detail about specific CEE initiatives and where the CEE is headed. Broadly speaking, CEE covers three main areas: Learning and Teaching Support, Educational Analytics, and Instructional Research and Development. This latter area conducts research to improve teaching and learning, and the focus of educational analytics is on-campus data analysis to support instructional effectiveness. The first focal area of the CEE, Learning and Teaching Support, is the specialty of both Patricia and Kem and that is what we spent the most time discussing.

The Learning and Teaching Support focal area includes twelve programs designed to improve learning and teaching in UC Davis classrooms. Our very own Graduate Teaching Community, the Teaching Assistant Consultant Program, the Seminar on College Teaching, and TA Orientation are geared toward helping TAs and graduate students in general become more effective teachers, with varying levels of commitment required on the part of the graduate students. Faculty workshops, faculty consultations, Mid-quarter Inquiries (MQIs), classroom observations, and faculty learning communities are focused on aiding faculty in their quest to become better teachers. Lastly, the CEE also helps with online course development, sponsors grant programs, and conducts workshops for departments.