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Tips for Those New to Teaching at Northern Illinois University

classroom desksTeaching for the first time at a new university can be enjoyable and daunting at the same time. Whether you are an experienced teacher or new to the profession, being prepared to teach at a new institution will help you transition and succeed in your new work environment. The following information on course policies, teaching procedures, and teaching-related resources should help you start your teaching career at Northern Illinois University (NIU) successfully! This blog post is a condensed version of a more comprehensive guide that will be available later this semester.

Course Syllabus

Each course is required to have a syllabus that outlines course policies, learning outcomes, grading scheme, expectations, and basic information about content. The syllabus must be distributed in class or posted electronically on Blackboard on or before the first scheduled day of the class, whether the course meets face-to-face or online.

Course Policies</h2

For each course you teach you will need to establish a set of policies. Course policies help describe your expectations of student behavior as well as what students can expect from you. The following are some fundamental policies that are often included in a course syllabus.

  • Academic Integrity and Student Behavior. Discuss with your students about academic integrity and classroom behavior and the consequences for students who do not take responsibility for these important concepts.
  • Attendance and Missed Classes. Class attendance policies can be course-specific and is completely at the discretion of the faculty member. Be specific about your attendance policy to ensure students understand the consequences for missing any portion of your course.
  • Late Work and Make-up Work. Explain to your students why you have deadlines and stress your expectations and consequences of late work. If you accept make-up work, provide a meaningful and realistic late work policy for your course.
  • Cell Phone Use. Have a conversation with your students about your classroom cell phone policy and whether you allow students to use cell phones during class. You may want to point out that unauthorized cell phone use is disruptive to classroom instruction – not only to the instructor but to fellow classmates as well.

Teaching Procedures

Teaching procedures differ from course policies in that they are specific to you and your teaching practice. The following selected resources are particular to NIU but are applicable to any teaching experience.

  • Faculty have different approaches to teaching and learning that can be expressed in a teaching philosophy. Develop your personalized teaching philosophy by reflecting on how you teach and how students learn effectively in your field. Share your philosophy with your students to familiarize them about your approach to teaching and your willingness to guide their learning.
  • Confidentiality of Student Records and Saving Instructional Records. Directory information pertaining to students of NIU is never knowingly provided to any requester for a commercial purpose. Graded materials such as exams and assignments not returned to students, syllabi with grading policy, and grade books or spreadsheets, should be retained for a period of not less than 13 months from completion of the course.
  • Grading System at NIU. The plus/minus grading system is the official grading system approved by the university for undergraduate and graduate students. The way you assign grades is your responsibility and should be outlined in your course syllabi. The plus/minus system provides more grade options, but how those options are utilized is the decision of the faculty member.
  • NIU’s Intellectual Property Policy. This policy states the relevant University policies, as well as the nature of the responsibilities, privileges, and options held by faculty, staff, and students pertaining to the creation of intellectual properties.
  • Statement of Professional Ethics for Faculty. This statement refers to faculty as teachers, colleagues, members of an academic institution, and members of their community and their personal and professional ethics.

Teaching-related Resources

NIU has many services and resources that support teaching and learning. Here are a few to help you improve both classroom and online teaching experiences.

  • Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center supports faculty, academic supportive professional staff, and graduate teaching assistants through a variety of programs, resources, and services.
  • Teaching with Blackboard support website that includes details about getting started, building your course, using Bb tools & its other resources. This site also includes top Blackboard FAQs where you can quickly find answers to many of your Bb questions.
  • Disability Resource Center (DRC) works with students who have documented disabilities to determine the appropriate accommodations for them. When a student presents you with an approved DRC accommodation request form, you must provide the accommodation as stated. Consult with the DRC for more information about meeting student accommodations.
  • Counseling and Consultation Services (CCS) provides comprehensive mental health support for currently enrolled students at NIU. CCS offers walk-in hours, appointments, and crisis services during office hours and after office hours. If you have concerns about a student, you can refer them to CCS.
  • NIU Writing Center is a support system for the entire NIU community. The Center provides one-on-one support for all students and faculty to brainstorm, draft, revise, and perfect their work.

For more information about teaching at NIU, contact Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center.

Share your thoughts! What questions do you have about teaching at NIU? Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Please post them in the comments area below.

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