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Guide to quick starters

Robert Boice (1991) studied new faculty members to determine what traits predicted productivity and a sense of belonging and accomplishment in the academy.  He found that more than 90% of new faculty followed a pattern. They believed that delivering content was the most important goal of teaching and, because of this belief, most used lecturing as the sole teaching method. They taught defensively, not wanting to make errors in the delivery of facts.  They learned to teach by mimicking the methods used by their teachers, watching others, or by gaining advice from senior faculty or students. They were passive about change and improvement, slowly becoming comfortable with teaching.  They scored lower on peer and student evaluations.

However, Boice found that 3-8% of the new faculty he studied did not fit this pattern.  Faculty members in this minority were more positive about their careers, were more productive and achieved higher observer and student ratings.   Characteristics of these faculty members, who he labeled “quick starters” included:

  1. using a relaxed pace and open attitude in the classroom.
  2. allowing  time for student involvement in classroom activities.
  3. reporting optimistic attitudes toward students.
  4. approaching their teaching with a sense of humor and high energy.
  5. seeking advice about teaching.
  6. spending less time preparing for teaching than their peers.
  7. integrating their scholarship with their teaching.
  8. having few complaints about their colleagues’ support and competence .

New faculty can become quick starters. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Maintain a balance between home and work life.
  2. Maintain a time log to help you balance not only your work and home life, but to help determine how much time you are spending on course preparation and scholarship.
  3. Spend less time preparing for teaching and more time involving your students in the learning process.
  4. Approach your teaching with a sense of humor.
  5. Realize you know more about your topic than students, so relax.  You need not know every detail.
  6. Realize students appreciate a professor who doesn’t know everything and is willing to admit it.
  7. Take time getting to know your students.
  8. Got a case of the nerves?  Check the section on “Nervousness
  9. Need some sage advice?  Check the sidebar on “Wisdom.”


  • Boice, R. (1991). Quick starters: New faculty who succeed. In M. Theall & J. Franklin (Eds.), Effective practices for improving teaching (p.111-121), New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 48. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Boice, R. (1991a). New faculty as colleagues. Qualitative Studies in Education, 4, 29-44.
  • Boice, R. (1991b). New faculty as teachers. Journal of Higher Education, 15, 315-327.
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Last updated: 06/20/2013
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