Strategic, long-term planning about ways to grow as a teacher is crucial for budding faculty, experts say. So, at the teaching institute "Thinking about learning, learning about teaching," a key assignment for attendees was developing a continuing-development contract for themselves--a plan for ways they would enhance their teaching skills over time, such as finding a teaching mentor, creating a teaching portfolio or attending workshops on teaching at their school.

"We want this workshop to be a beginning point in their teaching development, not an endpoint," said Barbara Nodine, PhD, one of the institute's leaders.

The contract was just one of several interactive exercises that graduate students, postdocs and new faculty participated in during the teaching institute, held Aug. 2­3, prior to APA's 2000 Annual Convention in Washington, D.C. The institute was sponsored by the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students, Div. 2 (Society for the Teaching of Psychology), the Preparing Future Faculty program and APA's Education Directorate.

Forty workshop participants spent a day and a half hammering out a personal teaching style and learning about course planning and evaluation, lecturing and facilitating group discussion under the guidance of James Korn, PhD, a psychology professor at St. Louis University, Nodine, a psychology professor at Beaver College, and Stephen Davis, PhD, a psychology professor at Emporia State University.

On the first day, participants mapped out a teaching philosophy and identified teaching goals. On day two, participants shared their teaching philosophies with each other and learned through a series of interactive exercises how they could translate those philosophies into practice in their classrooms. For example, by critiquing sample syllabi, participants learned how they could craft a syllabus--often a student's first impression of a professor--that both communicates course objectives and reflects personal style. They also learned how to develop a teaching portfolio, a collection of materials that reflects a teacher's ideas about education and performance as a teacher.

Institute attendees also participated in a "group discussion on group discussions" and got a "lecture on lecturing," complete with a role-playing exercise on how to handle in-class student disruptions.

"The main message I hope they took away is that it is a wonderful thing to be a teacher, but it also takes a lot of careful thought, hard work and practice," said Korn.