Understanding the teaching experiences of new tenure track university professors

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Caron, Jamie
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Mount Saint Vincent University
As universities face increased competition to attract and retain students, greater attention is being paid to the quality of teaching in higher education. This thesis uses a small qualitative study to explore how two new tenure-track professors in fields outside of Education describe their experiences in learning to teach and navigate the first few years of a tenure-track position at their small, undergraduate universities located in Atlantic Canada. Data from qualitative semistructured interviews were gathered and thematically analyzed. The participants’ perceptions of learning to teach were explored by looking at how they acquired teaching and learning strategies, interacted with students, navigated the tenure-track process, and managed the competing demands of the job. This qualitative analysis drew upon critical theory to consider how higher education contexts are shaped by neoliberal expectations. In addition, the analysis discussed the importance of preparing faculty to address issues of diversity and inclusion in their teaching. The nature of professorial work is demanding, and the teaching loads of those working in primarily undergraduate universities in tenured or tenure-track positions are quite heavy. Therefore, having prior practical teaching experiences and instructional opportunities from Teaching and Learning Centres during their doctoral studies was beneficial to the new professors interviewed in this study, since they had little time for professional development once hired to a tenure-track position. As learning to teach requires some trial and critical reflection, new faculty would benefit from a reduced teaching load. Rich insights were shared about the experiences of new faculty learning to teach, which may further inform university centres for teaching and learning, doctoral students considering professorial careers, and university policymakers and decisionmakers.
Teaching, higher education, university, professors