Concerns, Attitudes, and Abilities of Early-Career Geography Faculty

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Abstract:

Professional experiences during graduate school through the first few years of an academic appointment shape patterns of work and social behavior that prefigure the long-term success of new faculty members, including prospects for tenure and promotion. We explore these experiences through interviews and surveys with a sample of early-career faculty in postsecondary American geography. Our analysis reveals that teaching is the primary source of anxiety among new professors, many of whom begin their first academic positions with little or no preparation in learning theory, course design, or pedagogy. Many new faculty members struggle to maintain healthy personal and family lives, while adjusting to unfamiliar norms of their new institutions. New professors benefit from support offered by their department chairpersons and from working in collegial environments. Among women, we found a greater sense of self-doubt about their scholarly abilities and futures despite having records comparable in accomplishment to their male peers. Many women cope with this sense of marginalization by forming supportive mentoring relationships with other women faculty on campus and through disciplinary specialty groups. Networking with colleagues on campus and at academic conferences enhances the job performance and satisfaction of all faculty members irrespective of gender. Our findings underscore the importance of examining the social, professional, and disciplinary contexts of higher education to acquire a broader understanding of faculty development. This knowledge can help departments prepare new faculty for successful and satisfying academic careers.

Keywords: early-career faculty; faculty development; geography in higher education

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03098260600717299

Affiliations: 1: Association of American Geographers, Washington, DC, USA 2: University of Colorado at Boulder, USA, Department of Geography

Publication date: July 1, 2006

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