3 Key Challenges and Strategies for College Professors

Updated Jan 15, 2016
Dr. Tiffany A. FlowersDr. Tiffany A. Flowers

As a junior faculty member, teaching can be extremely challenging. No matter how prepared you are for the college classroom, there will always be issues. You can have a solid course syllabus, organized lectures, engaging demonstrations, and equitable grading practices. However, you will still have challenges as a college teacher. After a few years of college teaching, I have identified three key issues that can negatively impact your college teaching.

Issue #1Some students come to college unprepared. As a former K-12 educator, I knew this was a reality for those levels. However, seeing it at the college level was an overwhelming experience. This experience is especially true for new faculty.

Solutions: I learned quickly to teach the students that I have and not the ones I picture in a perfect world. This means I have to spend time engaging students and focusing on critical thinking if I expect them to be able to successfully do this as teachers. Many students come out of school districts where these strategies were not used. This means they are completely unfamiliar with being required to do critical thinking. I suggest that faculty develop a 10-25 page course syllabus with a table of contents. This helps students understand the scope and content of expectations in the course. The syllabus should also include detailed explanations of assignments, sample assignments, study guides, and grading rubrics.

Issue #2 – Some administrators want junior faculty members to engage in large amounts of service. This can be an issue since some service requires large amounts of time. This can limit the planning time of junior faculty that need time to make their courses stronger and more challenging.

Solutions: Faculty should integrate their service into their teaching whenever possible. Getting students to present at academic conferences, study abroad, problem-based learning, action research, and service learning experiences enhances their student learning.

Issue #3Meetings and professional activities take a backseat to teaching. This is a problem considering professional activities help to enhance teaching. This issue is important because it can impact student engagement, and especially student learning. These activities are also critical to the livelihood as a professor.

Solutions: I suggest that faculty develop a strong and challenging college course by reframing their professional activities to make them more inclusive of students. Additionally, faculty should consider offering to workshop papers and to co-author essays, papers, reports, and book reviews for publication with students.

By reframing our teaching, it helps to make the classroom more inclusive and engage the students we currently teach.

Dr. Tiffany A. Flowers is an Assistant Professor of Education at Perimeter College at Georgia State University. Her research interests include African American Literacy Development, Literature, Diversity Issues in Education, Traditional Literacy, and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Correspondence concerning this commentary may be e-mailed to tflowers@gpc.edu.