Stephen Yoder’s experience in corporate law is unquestioned. His 30 years in practice mean countless stories, experiences and insight that would be valuable to any UAB business student interested in corporate governance or the legal environment of business.

Stephen Yoder, teaching a class, says the new Excellence in Teaching Seminar Series for New Faculty “was a perfect course for someone like me who is supposed to have mastered the substance but has to deliver it in an effective way.”

Because Yoder, an attorney, did not have an opportunity to teach courses as part of his graduate and professional training, the first-year adjunct professor in the School of Business jumped at the opportunity to enroll in the Excellence in Teaching Seminar Series for New Faculty offered for the first time this spring.

The seven-class seminar series was developed for faculty in their early years of teaching and aimed especially at those with no formal training in educational instruction.

“I needed this course because I needed to learn about teaching,” says Yoder, J.D. who is scheduled to become an assistant professor in August. “It was a perfect course for someone like me who is supposed to have mastered the substance but has to deliver it in an effective way.”

The series, which will be offered annually, is sponsored by the Office for Faculty Development and Faculty Affairs.

Julia Austin, Ph.D., director of educational services, is the coordinator and instructor. Course topics include student learning and long-term retention, designing a course syllabus, enhancing lectures, effective teaching approaches and techniques, challenging students and interesting situations and evaluating and grading.

Preparing faculty
The goal of the series was to help new faculty gain useful knowledge about teaching and learning while giving them opportunities to network with new faculty and experienced master teachers.

“The overall objective is to prepare faculty to be both effective and efficient in their early years of teaching,” says Claire Peel, Ph.D., interim associate provost for Faculty Development & Faculty Affairs.

“Faculty learn about student-learning styles, creating a clear and concise syllabus, preparing lectures and active learning experiences and ways to evaluate student learning.”

Ten schools participated in the seminar series, providing the new faculty with an opportunity to learn from such well-respected UAB faculty as Joe March, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry; Dale Benos, Ph.D., chairman of Physiology and Biophysics; Wesley Granger, Ph.D., associate professor of respiratory therapy; and Jim Martin, Ph.D associate professor of physics.

Austin says her goal was to provide the new faculty with quality information and guidance on structuring their courses.

“We really wanted these seminars to help faculty, not just be something they had to attend and do,” Austin says. “We wanted to help new faculty learn more about effective and efficient teaching strategies.”

Yoder says the guest lecturers demonstrated techniques that worked well for them in the classroom – and gave the participants excellent advice.

“They are students of the subject of teaching,” he says. “One thing I found particularly interesting was how powerful peer learning can be – students teaching each other. I’m going to have to find a way to do more of that.”

Benefits of networking
Austin says faculty of any discipline can take away techniques they can apply to their classroom.
Another way the new faculty were able to accomplish that was by sharing their experiences with each other.

“It was great to watch them sharing their ideas they with each other,” Austin says. “Some of them have had some really positive teaching experiences. Some would say, ‘I tried this, and here’s how it worked in my case’ or ‘Here’s how I adapted it in my situation.’ For them to have a supportive environment to share these experiences was a positive. It really was an enthusiastic and engaged group who truly care about teaching.

“It makes you feel good about the future of UAB’s faculty.”