While commitment by the learner is fundamental to the learning process, the active commitment of those members of the university community responsible for providing learning opportunities is crucial to optimizing the student learning experience. To do so, university instructors (including faculty, sessional lecturers, graduate teaching assistants, and other instructors) need to make the following commitments and fulfil the corresponding responsibilities. Instructor commitments can be summarized as Exemplify Learning, Teach Effectively, Assess Fairly, and Solicit Feedback.
Instructor Commitment 1: Exemplify Learning.
Embody learning behaviours expected of students.
Honouring this commitment requires that instructors demonstrate the learning behaviours expected of students. That is, instructors should create a learning context which values and facilitates active learning, should demonstrate broad thinking, should act according to ethical principles, and should create a learning environment where all participants can engage respectfully. All participants need to be encouraged to try to understand and acknowledge points of view that may diverge from their own. Instructors must strive to present sensitive topics in a fair and balanced manner. This should not be construed, however, as restricting the ability to raise controversial issues, nor serve to undermine academic freedom. Whether issues are controversial or not, instructors should encourage and foster open and healthy dialogue. Within the teaching context, instructors also need to convey respect for members of the university community and its partners.
Maintain an appropriate instructor-student relationship.
Honouring this commitment requires that instructors maintain a professional relationship with students under their supervision, and avoid conflicts of interest that may be posed by dual or multiple relationships with students. Where potential conflicts may exist, these should be disclosed to the appropriate academic official.
Instructor Commitment 2: Teach Effectively.
Ensure content proficiency.
Honouring this commitment requires that university instructors maintain a high level of subject matter knowledge, and ensure that course content is current, accurate, relevant to course objectives, representative of the body of knowledge covered in the course, and appropriate to the position of the course within the program of studies in which it is embedded.
Ensure pedagogical effectiveness.
Honouring this commitment requires that university instructors be aware of the range of instructional methods or strategies appropriate to conveying the course content, and that they select and utilize methods of instruction that are effective in helping students achieve the learning objectives of the course. Where graduate teaching assistants play a role in instructing a course, the instructor must ensure that they are provided with the proper guidance and supervision to allow them to fulfil their responsibilities effectively.
Instructor Commitment 3: Assess Fairly.
Communicate and uphold clear academic expectations and standards.
Honouring this commitment requires that instructors provide a clear indication of what is expected of students in the course, and what students can do to be successful in achieving the learning objectives of the course. This includes providing a course outline at the beginning of the course10 that provides information on course objectives, course activities, course requirements, methods of student assessment, and weighting of assessment criteria. The instructor will take appropriate action in response to any concerns about academic dishonesty.11
Perform fair and relevant assessment of student learning.
Honouring this commitment requires that instructors ensure that assessments of student learning are transparent, applied consistently, and congruent with course objectives. Students should be provided with prompt and constructive feedback on their learning progress at regular intervals throughout the course. When individuals other than the instructor play a role in the grading of assignments and examinations, the instructor must provide careful supervision of this process.
Instructor Commitment 4: Solicit Feedback.
Provide opportunities for student feedback.
Honouring this commitment requires that instructors provide students with the opportunity to give candid feedback on their learning experience, without concerns of possible repercussions. Instructors will consider this feedback and strive to improve the student learning experience.12
Solicit other feedback on their teaching effectiveness.
Honouring this commitment requires that instructors solicit feedback on their teaching effectiveness from a variety of sources, and to continually seek ways and means of improving teaching effectiveness and the student learning experience.