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Maximizing Learning: Expectations for CMU Instructors


The purpose of this document is to specify behaviors essential to the effectiveness of instructors teaching CMU courses online and at satellite locations. CMU’s overarching goal is to provide our learners with quality educational experiences that promote lifelong learning and achieve measurable learning outcomes. The following document specifies observable instructor behaviors, teaching practices and underlying pedagogical principles widely associated with teaching effectiveness. The document also specifies essential means by which instructors indirectly enhance the learning environment and improve academic outcomes, including regular participation in professional development activities and consistent alignment with CMU’s procedures and policies.

Teaching as a creative and innovative process

CMU recognizes that teaching is a creative and innovative process combining both the essential behaviors required of all university faculty and the less concrete techniques and approaches instructors should emphasize to enhance students’ learning. In recognition of these two contributory elements, the attached document contains two separate sections: Part One: Requirements for the Faculty Role and Part Two: Expectations for the Faculty Role. 

Part One describes those behaviors that are considered required elements of the instructor job description. Part Two describes in greater detail eight instructional principles essential to teaching effectiveness and expected of all faculty. Several behavioral examples of each instructional principle are included to help faculty, particularly those new to the profession, successfully integrate these best practices into their existing teaching styles. Strategies were selected in accordance with their strong empirical relationships to enhanced learning outcomes among adult students in flexible delivery formats.

Part One: Requirements for the Faculty Role

  1. Understand the goals and objectives of the overarching academic program
  2. Construct a syllabus (course outline), including a course description, goals and objectives as they appear in the CMU Master Course Syllabus and CMU Bulletin
  3. Design teaching sessions in accordance with the CMU Master Course Syllabus and, if applicable, the Master Online Course

See the eight Teaching and Learning Principles listed in Part Two.

  1. At the start of the course, explain the criteria for evaluating each graded course requirement and the weight of each requirement in determining the student's final grade
  2. Require multiple class assignments, including pre-course assignments
  3. Utilize multiple assessments of learner performance that link to the course goals and objectives

  1. Maintain awareness of communication and presence to show energy, give positive encouragement to students and convey enthusiasm for the subject
  2. Seek and use self, peer and student feedback

  1. Complete an orientation for new faculty before the first class meeting
  2. Conduct regular reviews of current research in the field and relevant current events to supplement class materials 
  3. Participate in at least one CMU-hosted faculty development activity every year
  4. Seek support and advice from colleagues and provide the same for fellow faculty and staff

  1. Submit a course syllabus through the Syllabus Build Tool (SBT) that is in compliance with the Master Course Syllabus
  2. Meet with students for the required contact hours
  3. Honor class dates, locations, and formats
  4. Maintain compliance with copyrights
  5. Maintain compliance with procedural deadlines (e.g., deadlines for submitting class materials and grades)
  6. Retain assignments used for determining student grades for one year or give graded assignments back to students

    Part Two: Expectations of the Faculty Role

    1. Discover students' learning styles, interests, assumptions about learning and backgrounds at the beginning of a course
    2. Incorporate class activities that recognize and address varied learning styles
    3. Capitalize on learners' backgrounds by adding relevant learning materials and activities
    4. Determine learners' understanding of prerequisite material 
    5. Assess student knowledge using more than one type of evaluation (e.g., multiple choice, essay questions, projects)
    6. Respect minority opinion and keep disagreements civil

    1. Establish ground rules for class management and conduct; tell students what is expected of them and what can be expected of the instructor
    2. Minimize negotiation of expectations by treating the class syllabus as a contract; changes to the syllabus should be communicated to students in writing
    3. Explain how the course relates to other courses in the program
    4. Explain why specific topics are being taught and how they relate to professional opportunities
    5. Clearly state the amount and level of in-class and out-of-class work expected of students
    6. Explain that the classroom environment is but one source of student learning; course objectives can be accomplished through other means (e.g., independent learning or practice)

    1. Design learning activities that reinforce the acquisition of course content (content-oriented activities) and its application (problem-centered activities)
    2. Use focused application to integrate new material and existing knowledge
    3. Relate outside events/activities to the subject of study
    4. Discuss course material within the context of concrete, real-life situations
    5. Provide opportunities for reflection on the application of new learning (e.g., ask learners to summarize how new knowledge can be applied to their jobs)

    1. Achieve class objectives by using a variety of instructional techniques (e.g., literature reviews, demonstrations, structured discussions, panel discussions) 
    2. Design learning activities (e.g., data gathering & analysis) that develop higher-order cognitive skills such as summarizing, synthesizing, analyzing, and applying
    3. Design learning activities to stimulate as many sensory modalities (e.g., vision and hearing) as possible
    4. Organize instruction to allow for demonstration (explanation, discussion) and guided practice
    5. Use different question types (e.g., fact and process questions, convergent and divergent questions, questions of policy and/or value)
    6. Assess student learning using different kinds of evaluations (e.g., papers, projects, tests, case studies) and test types (e.g., multiple choice, essay, short answer, true/false)

    1. Guide students to set challenging goals for their own learning
    2. Establish and communicate systematic milestones (e.g., paper drafts, quizzes, review) to keep students on schedule and moving toward a clearly defined goal
    3. Communicate the importance of scheduling frequent, self-paced study sessions
    4. Establish procedures for dealing with unexpected interruptions
    5. Balance highly and moderately challenging tasks for optimal student learning
    6. Provide periodic reviews or summaries of previously covered content

    1. Present classroom material in a clear and interpretable manner consistent with high degrees of cognitive, oral and written clarity
    2. Encourage students to ask questions and respond in a timely, meaningful way
    3. Ask open-ended questions that draw out relevant learner knowledge and experience 
    4. Ask learners to tell each other about their interests and backgrounds
    5. Encourage classroom cooperation; create student project teams within a course
    6. Fulfill the terms of the syllabus regarding instructor availability, accessibility and response turn-around (see 2.2.3)

    1. Distribute performance evaluations throughout the course to provide ongoing feedback on the quality of each student’s performance
    2. Include written comments specifying the strengths and weaknesses of each student’s performance on a given assignment
    3. Provide classroom exercises and problems which give learners immediate feedback about their performance
    4. Solicit student feedback about class at multiple points in the course
    5. Return graded assignments within the time frame established in 2.2.3.
    6. Assign final grades according to each students individual achievement and contribution (e.g., to group projects)

    1. Facilitate learners’ reflection on how they think and learn (e.g., ask learners to reflect on prior experiences, review drafts of work, and examine assumptions and diverse perspectives)
    2. Facilitate learners’ regulation of how they think and learn (e.g., ask learners to challenge personal assumptions, determine the order of steps to be taken to complete a learning task, evaluate task difficulty, engage in meaning-making logic, create knowledge maps, share learning experiences)
    3. Use teaching strategies that model desirable learning behaviors (i.e. processes such as notetaking, outlining and concept mapping) and outcomes (i.e. products such as summaries, project reports, knowledge maps)
    4. Encourage and guide student self assessment (e.g., ask learners to evaluate their progress toward a learning goal)
    5. Provide opportunities for integration of new learning (e.g., ask learners to analyze how new information relates to their existing knowledge).