Tips for new faculty

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Hi friends of Wayfinding!

This week is the first week of class for our last term of the 2017/2018 academic year. And for our inaugural cohort, it is the first week of their last class at Wayfinding - The Good Life. They graduate in July (watch your inboxes for an invitation to our graduation party here in Portland) and are spending this term preparing for their next step and thinking about what kind of life they want to live. 

As you know, we do things a little differently at Wayfinding. One of the biggest elements of the Wayfinding experience we have refined over the past couple of years is “how we teach” at Wayfinding. We don’t have tests or grades and all our classes are small and discussion- and experiential-based with individual self-directed projects as assignments.

Even folks who have been teaching for many years and are excellent teachers have to stretch to adapt their style to Wayfinding. And often we hire folks for whom this is their first time as a professor in a college classroom, and while they have depth of experience and knowledge, they would like tips on how to teach.

So, over the past few months we have put together some tips for teaching at Wayfinding that we share with all new faculty. We thought you might be interested in this behind-the-scenes glimpse of our lessons learned. In turn, if you are a teacher or have had a favorite teacher, we’d be curious to hear about what ideas you have to best serve students and help them get the most out of a learning experience.

  1. Have a reason for everything we do and to articulate those reasons. At Wayfinding we encourage students to ask "why" about everything and to expect a solid answer when they ask. If we cannot provide a solid “why” we should rethink what we are asking them to do or why we are doing something the way we are. Presenting the theoretical and practical underpinnings of our lesson plans motivates students to get excited about projects and activities.  

  2. Bring in guest speakers to add new perspectives and get lived experiences other than our own into the conversation. This also provides them with some new community connections and strengthens connections between Wayfinding and community members and organizations.

  3. Get out of the classroom sometimes - we believe community and college should be woven together and that Portland is our campus. Many of our students are from other parts of the country and getting out into the city to visit places and do things is transformational for them.

  4. Bring the students on board as co-creators of the course. They’re experts! They take all the classes, they take Labs, they do all the Wayfinding things, they see what works best. We ask them how class assignments, projects, and discussions can be optimized for them. Rather than reinventing the wheel, we have students clue us in to extant best practices. For example, one of our faculty has written on her blog about collaborating with students to make class discussion very lively!  

  5. Meet with each student individually at least once during the term to check in with them. These individualized personal relationships have a positive impact on the class setting and they all know each other really well, so this is their chance to get to know us.   

  6. Make classes interactive and experiential whenever possible. Our students love to learn by doing and then discussing what they did and what they got out of it. This also allows them to integrate their interests into course material and to create things to add to their portfolio.  

  7. Create and maintain an inclusive learning environment so that all the students can get the most out of their education. Below is a link roundup of some resources we have found to be helpful on how to do this effectively.

  8. Challenge the students - they love to work hard and learn new things.

Want to try out a Wayfinding class? All our Labs are open to the community, so check out our Lab offerings here and join us if you are able! 

Cheers to learning in community, 
The Wayfinding crew

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Resources for creating an inclusive environment: