As a faculty member, one has responsibilities regarding teaching, research or scholarly activities, and service. Each department may have specific guidelines regarding the relative importance of these for merit, tenure, and promotion; it is, therefore, recommended that a faculty member discusses this with his/her chair and with other faculty members in that department. That being said, across the university, teaching is usually given the greatest weight of the three traditional categories of responsibilities. Thus, we hope to share some pointers that will help increase your success in the realm of teaching.
Additionally, however, realize that some departments have a collection of departmental policies that supplement those of the University. It is the responsibility of a faculty member to familiarize him/herself with the policies in this handbook and that of individualís department. Some examples of departmental policies that might influence your teaching procedures are departmental limits on the amount of extra credit, departmental attendance policy statements, and departmental guidelines regarding the use of graduate assistants to grade assignments.
Inside the classroom
Students with Special Needs
Many students at SFASU have documented disabilities that allow them to receive accommodations for testing or other class-related information exchange (e.g. enlarged print syllabi and handouts, a note-taker in class). To receive special accommodations a student must go through Disability Services to receive a triplicate form outlining the possible, reasonable accommodations as determined by a committee that reviewed the student's documentation. The student signs the form, keeps a copy and returns the other copies to the Office of Disability Services. If a professor has questions or does not agree with the suggested accommodations, the professor MUST contact the Office of Disability Services. Because these accommodations are based on a thorough review of the documentation, in most (essentially all) cases a student is well advised to follow the recommendations. Some students will occasionally have obvious disabilities that will not require the Office of Disability Services documentation because such disabilities are of short-term duration (e.g. a broken hand may warrant extended testing time; you may want to have some sort of documentation from a doctor to verify this and kept in the studentís records). Other than such special exceptions, in order to be fair to ALL students, no faculty member should give special accommodations to any student or students who have not gone through the Office of Disability Services. It is not the responsibility of a faculty member to suggest that a student should receive special accommodations.
Students who have gone through the Office of Disability Services should not be openly identified in class. They should self-identify themselves and discuss with their professors which of the recommended accommodations will be necessary for that particular course. The paperwork from the Office of Disability Services should list all possible and reasonable recommendations, but often all of them may not be relevant to a studentís course in question. Also, in some cases, a student may opt not to take advantage of the accommodations because he/she may want to try to "make it" without those special accommodations. In such a case, the student may begin taking the accommodations at any time that he/she communicates a desire to do so. Sometimes a student may never identify him/herself to a professor or take advantage of the accommodations available. It is STRONGLY recommended that professors include statements in their syllabi explaining the accommodations the University provides regarding students with disabilities. The Appendix of this guide contains an example statement that has been approved by the Office of Disability Services.
Dealing with Student Academic Difficulties
Many potential problems with students can be avoided by making clear statements of policy in a course syllabus and by explaining such policies on the first day of class. Such issues should include policies on make-up exams, attendance, participation, and late papers. Generally, if a student has a documented, academic excuse (including university sports) for an absence, that student should be given the opportunity to make up any missed work within a reasonable amount of time, without any penalties. How a professor handles other excuses will be up to that professor. However, there must be a clear consequences provided in the course syllabus in case a student fails to comply.
If a faculty member is clear about class policies, then when dealing with a student demanding unreasonable special treatment, he or she can fall back on the policy to explain his or her decision. It should be noted that students are not accustomed to hearing their requests denied, but most will accept the logic that a professor must be fair to ALL students and, thus, cannot give them (the students involved) special treatment. It helps to say that a PROFESSOR might get in trouble with his/her chair or dean if ALL students are not treated fairly. Of course, there will be unique, extreme cases about which a professor will have to make decisions as problems arise. In such cases, it might be good for a professor to discuss the situation with his/her chair. This protects both the professor and the student if a problem develops beyond the classroom.
Some academic problems are due to students' (especially freshmen) inability to master the pile of materials to be learned within short time period. Poor student performance can be frustrating for both the student and the professor. Sometimes students get by with last-minute memorization before a test. If a professorís class is one for which such an approach will not work, the professor should discuss appropriate study / learning strategies in class and also encourage students who are having problems to make use of the class office hours to get additional help from the professor. All students must be encouraged to approach a professor without fear of psychological intimidation. It is very rewarding to see a student learn how to learn and bring his/her grades up over the course of a semester. In many cases where students are struggling academically, it is also appropriate to suggest the student go to the Academic Assistance and Resource Center (AARC) in the Library.
Students Displaying Behavioral or Psychological Problems
Many other student problems (e.g. emotional problems, roommate problems, school problems) can best be handled by listening attentively and long enough to determine the source of the problem, and then referring the student to the appropriate student service (e.g. counseling services, an RA in the residence halls, an academic advisor). A summary of the student resources is in the SFA101 Handbook.
In some cases, you might suspect that a student has a more sever psychological problem. Especially in light of recent events at Virginia Tech, please note such behavior and take appropriate actions. SFA has a policy (Students Displaying Serious Psychological Problems (D-35) ) that clearly outlines what is meant by a serious psychological problem, an emergency versus non-emergency situation, and all the related procedures for handling such situations, the hearing process, and the suspension process.
However, not all behavioral problems are due to severe psychological problems. Students at SFA are expected to behave appropriately (see the Student Conduct Code (D-34.1) ), and there are specific consequences when they do not (see the Student Discipline (D-34) policy).
Academic Integrity Issues
It is not easy to deal with, but occasionally a professor might catch a student cheating or plagiarizing. How does a professor deal with a cheating/plagiarizing student? The short answer is: Please follow the procedure outlined in the Academic Integrity (A9.1) policy located on the SFASU web site. This procedure will include you taking the time to collect evidence, determine the consequence, meet with the student, complete a form, and send it to the dean's office to be filed. A student's "cheating" file will remain in the dean's office until the student graduates. If there are no further offenses, it will simply be destroyed upon the student's graduation. However, if multiple offenses are reported, a review will be made and further actions will be taken. Although there is a formal procedure with respect to the form, the consequence for the student within the realm of the course is largely up to the professor.
At this point, we would like to explain why it is so important that a professor takes the time to complete this extra paperwork. It would be a lot easier to simply give a grade of zero for the exam or paper in question and skip the form (although it has always been wise to save documentation of the offense). Before the current policy there was no form, and thus, there was no permanent record of a student's unethical behavior. Further, many students simply dropped a course after getting caught cheating, and therefore, there was no consequence with respect to their grades. They would retake the course another time with another professor. The logic behind the current procedure and the form is that chronic cheaters will be caught and more severe penalties given. Professors are encouraged to review this procedure with students on the first day of class. Many students, unfortunately, are unaware of the procedure. We believe that by informing students of the long-term consequences, it may deter some cheating and plagiarism incidents and make students more likely to study hard and do their own work.