There has been a surge in the research literature in the last decade regarding faculty of color and college teaching. More specifically, the issues related to faculty of color teaching evaluations, instructor dispositions, and what actually occurs in the classroom.
Some scholars have discussed the need to focus on student perceptions of their instructors. Others have suggested altering the evaluation process of teaching. However, in this commentary I offer some suggestions on ways to improve the teaching and learning process for faculty of color teaching students. More specifically, I am writing about faculty of color teaching online.
Online teaching is fairly new territory for all instructors but especially for faculty of color in online teaching positions. It is my hope that these suggestions will offer a way for online instructors of color to make the technical process of course management seamless for students.
I have been college instructor for more than a decade. I have taught face to face, hybrid, and online courses. I have been an online instructor for five years at the same institution. I teach a variety of education courses online at a two year college where teaching is the prime focus. I prefer this type of institution since my background is actually in Education. I teach a 5/4 load every year and I teach summer courses as well.
Each year I teach, I revise my course as part of my goals for the academic year. I include new policies, update practices, revise my assessments, and strengthen my course powerpoints. It is something that I have been doing for the last six years. I highly recommend that instructors that teach online for the first time create a similar system. Also, I recommend that online instructors spend time creating a course that students can navigate.
First, online instructors should include everything in the course syllabus. I include the policies, procedures, course schedule, study guides, projects, paper description, and rubrics in the same document. I do this to ensure there is absolutely no excuse from students of whether they have read the syllabus and supporting materials.
Second, instructors should create a course syllabus as a contract. I require all students to read, sign, and submit the syllabus contract during the first week of class. This is to ensure they understand the course requirements. I also inform the students that this document is used during grade disputes or challenges at the end of the course.
Third, I provide the powerpoint, assignments, rubrics, notes, and supporting materials in course modules. I open all modules at the beginning of the class. I close all course modules on the day each one is due. I do not reopen the modules or supporting materials. This is to ensure that students complete the work within the deadlines. This also limits requests of students turning in late work.
Fourth, I return all assignments grades within seven days of the students turning in the assignments. This is to ensure that I provide the work back graded in a timely manner.
Fifth, I develop a policy for everything in the course that can or will occur. I have a policy and time limit for every occurrence in the course. I respond to emails in 48 hours. I do not accept late work unless there is a doctor’s excuse. I require students to submit grade disputes on individual assignments within 48 hours of receiving the grade. I also have policies for diversity, working with students with disabilities, and military students.
Online teaching is fairly new way to deliver instruction. However, it is only a matter of time before every college and university within the United States begins to deliver instruction this way. As faculty of color become part of this new wave, it is imperative that we discuss strategies to navigate this culture. In the future, faculty of color will have to shift from face to face instruction to teaching online, documenting our process as well as making a case for good teaching is key to our success.
Dr. Tiffany A. Flowers is an Assistant Professor of Education at Georgia Perimeter College. She is an Indiana Minority Faculty Fellow, Frederick Douglas Teaching Fellow, and an NCTE Early Career Award Leadership Award Recipient. Correspondence concerning this commentary may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org