Teaching Specialist Application & Renewal Guidelines

Description of the Teaching Specialist faculty category

“The Teaching Specialist appointment is a multiple-year, renewable teaching appointment proposed by department chairs to meet an ongoing curricular need and offered to qualified individuals who have a proven record of excellent teaching at the college. Department chairs may apply for appointments when a demonstrated annual teaching need of at least .67 FTE can be made for a non-tenure track position for a period of five consecutive years” (Faculty Manual Section 4.III.G).  Teaching Specialists contribute to academic advising and service to the college in proportion to their level of employment.  Teaching Specialists hold 3-year term appointments of at least .67 FTE with the option of subsequent 3-year appointments to the position.



Deadlines for applications and for renewal requests
  • Applications for a Teaching Specialist appointment (use link above): October 15
  • Renewals of second or third year of the 3-year contract (use appointment form): February 1 request (for a March 1 letter per Faculty Manual Section 4.III.K.2)
  • Requests for a subsequent 3-year term (use Google Doc obtained from the DOC): October 15 of the final year of the appointment; each contract is a 3-year renewable contract
  • Reviews: During the fifth year of the Teaching Specialist appointment, and the fifth year of subsequent cycles (i.e., years 5, 11, 17)

Table: Teaching Specialist Cycle – Application, Renewals, Annual Information, and Reviews

Appointment year 0 1 2 3 4 5 6
Year count for subsequent cycles 7 8 9 10 11 12
Contractual Oct. 15 Application Feb. 1 Renewal request (for yr. 2 of the 3-yr. contract) Feb. 1 Renewal request (for yr. 3 of the 3-yr. contract) Oct. 15 Request next 3-yr. term Feb. 1 Renewal request (for yr. 2 of the 3-yr. contract) Feb. 1 Renewal request (for yr. 3 of the 3-yr. contract) Oct. 15 5th-yr.  review report and request next 3-yr. term
Review – teaching, service & advising X
5-year plan (for application or request for subsequent 3-year appointment) X Submit new 5-year plan Submit new 5-year plan
End-of-course evaluations X X X X X X X
Class observations X X
Qualifications for the Teaching Specialist position
  1. Excellent teaching
  2. Ability to contribute to advising, service and leadership at the college
  3. Prior teaching at St. Olaf College, in the order of
    1. The equivalent of 24 1-credit courses, or
    2. 5 years, whichever threshold is reached first
  4. Terminal degree in an appropriate field
 Other considerations essential to the application
  1. A 5-year staffing plan demonstrating the need for the individual’s teaching contributions in the department(s) and any interdisciplinary programs involved in the plan for this individual [template should be requested from the Faculty Data Specialist]
  2. An explanation as to why this position best meets the particular curricular needs of the department (rather than a tenure track position or a different term appointment)
  3. Written endorsement of the appointment by any program directors or additional department chairs included in the staffing plan
  4. Written endorsement of the appropriate Associate Dean(s)
  5. Evidence of the individual’s qualifications as a teacher (should the application include a plan for teaching in another program or department, evidence pertaining to the candidate’s teaching contributions in these areas should be included as well.) Evidence should include:
    1. Class observations of teaching in the semester of or immediately preceding the review of teaching
    2. Review of teaching materials
    3. End-of-course evaluations (for Teaching Specialist faculty, the department chair receives end-of-course evaluations for at least two courses annually—based on a full-time appointment).
Guidelines for developing an application

Ideally, people in term positions will teach at St. Olaf for a year or a few years, and then use their experience to go on to a tenure track position at another institution.  Chairs, program directors, and colleagues must be cognizant of the important role they have in mentoring term colleagues with the goal of maximizing their contributions and opportunities as teachers and scholars at St. Olaf so that they will be well positioned to compete in faculty searches at other institutions.  For these reasons, Teaching Specialist positions are likely to remain relatively few in number.  They will apply only to those situations in which an on-going need over the medium term for the teaching contributions of a particular individual is established.

Gathering information about teaching quality.
The application for an appointment to the Teaching Specialist position is focused on teaching: both the quality of the candidate’s teaching and the curricular needs of the department (and of any programs that are partnering on the application).  Starting in the fall of 2017 much of the information required for an application will be collected in the normal course of reviewing of all term faculty members (as described in the Faculty Manual Section 4.VI.C.2), including information about the faculty member’s teaching through the review of materials (such as syllabi, assignments, samples of grading, examples of class exercises, and digital or paper handouts), end-of-course evaluations, and in-class observations as well as discussions that chairs have with term faculty colleagues as part of the review process. Applications may include additional information about the needs of the department, such as course enrollments for the department and for the faculty member in question.  See below for a discussion of the inclusion of other programs in the teaching plan.

A 5-year plan for the Teaching Specialist.
The position contemplates a minimum total annual appointment of .67 FTE (department plus any program FTE).  Appointments may be made for more than .67 FTE either at the point of the initial appointment or later, as additional departmental and program needs arise. Departments should use the staffing template normally used in submitting tenure track position requests, which will be provided by the Faculty Data Specialist.  Requests for subsequent 3-year appointments also require a 5-year plan, which in most cases will be an update for the remaining period in the current contract plus an extension of the plan to cover 5 years.

This plan constitutes a commitment by departments and programs to employ the faculty member at the proposed FTE level and for the courses listed in the 5-year plan. The plan may be modified at the point of a request to appoint for additional 3-year terms. Similarly, the faculty member’s acceptance of the Teaching Specialist appointment is a commitment to teach the courses listed in the plan or their equivalent. Normal practices for managing the curriculum and staffing apply, however, so that the department and faculty member may be asked to change a teaching assignment in the case of under or over-enrolled courses, or other changing circumstances in the department. In any given year, Teaching Specialists are welcome to accept additional teaching assignments for which they are qualified to teach, up to a total of 1.0 FTE. Teaching Specialists are eligible to apply for grants allowing for additional teaching or teaching opportunities (such as FTE awards for course innovation), though they should avoid arrangements in which such awards conflict with the plan submitted in the application.

Identifying interdisciplinary programs and other departments interested in collaborating with your department in submitting an application.
The application and 5-year plan may include a plan that includes teaching in more than one department, or in interdisciplinary programs.  In this case, the application should include information about the candidate’s teaching in the other department or programs, which should include using the same kinds of evidence described above.

Department chairs and program directors can benefit from advance joint planning.  Faculty members in question benefit from this joint planning as well, gaining improved clarity about the likely minimum level of employment they can expect.  The amount of teaching in the department and other programs can vary from year to year, so long as it amounts to an annual minimum of .67 FTE.  Chairs and directors should confer with each other and with their respective Associate Deans early in application development.  Should the application propose a teaching assignment that includes participation in another department or in a program, endorsement by the director(s) or chair(s) is required.  That endorsement should be informed by good knowledge of the individual’s contributions to teaching in the program(s) or additional department(s)—and drawing on the same kinds of evidence described above—as well as a firm commitment of FTE during the period in question.

Gaining the support of the Associate Dean(s).
Applications require the endorsement of the Associate Dean of each department or program included in the teaching plan.  Chairs should reach out to the appropriate Associate Dean(s) early to discuss plans for submitting an application.

The application focuses on teaching.
Those teaching in term appointments at an FTE sufficient to merit a base salary, and who have sufficient acquaintance with the college, its programs, and its students often serve as academic advisors.  They are also eligible to participate in service at the department and college level.  Service and advising, however, are typically not expected of those beginning short-term appointments.  For this reason, the application to make an appointment to the Teaching Specialist does not require evidence of previous service or advising.

Chairs and program directors should be aware, however, of the fact that those appointed to a Teaching Specialist position are expected to contribute to advising and service.  Reviews and requests for subsequent appointments to the position call for evidence regarding contributions to service and advising as well as teaching. Chairs and program directors will need to consider the best way to collect information and engage with the faculty member in a discussion about contributions to advising and service as part of reviews.

Last, while the Teaching Specialist position entails access to professional development resources that may support scholarship and artistic projects, it does not call for evidence of scholarly and artistic work as described in departmental SSSAWs for the initial appointment, the 5-year reviews, or for subsequent appointments to the position.

Application review and subsequent steps

Completed applications should be submitted to the Dean of the College no later than October 15 (use link to Application Form above).
The Dean of the College will confer with the members of the Deans Council and then make a recommendation to the President.

Drawing up and renewing the contract.
The Teaching Specialist contract will include a specific teaching assignment and outline expectations for advising and service. As with other multiple-year contracts, St. Olaf renews employment to faculty holding multiple-year contracts on an annual basis on or before March 1 of each appointment year (Faculty Manual Section 4.III.K.2). 

Requests for subsequent appointments to the Teaching Specialist position.
“Teaching Specialist positions are eligible for 3-year renewals at the discretion of the Dean of the College, upon recommendation of the department.  Departments seeking a renewal shall submit a narrative report of the candidate’s teaching, advising, and service to the College. Department chair(s) shall consult with tenured members of the department and include a summary of this consultation with the renewal request. The request shall also include an explanation as to why the position request should not become a tenure-track request. A department chair(s) shall include evidence of a minimum 0.67 FTE teaching need for five years in the request to renew” (Faculty Manual Section 4.III.G.6).

Requests to appoint a Teaching Specialist to a subsequent 3-year period should address the faculty member’s contributions to teaching, advising, and service.  For each request, chairs should draw on information gathered from end-of-course evaluations. Requests to issue a subsequent contract will also include information gathered from class observations.  As always, however, the chair has the right and responsibility to require more frequent class observations if these seem necessary or if these are part of the department’s practice.

  • There is a colleague in the department who does not hold the terminal degree in the discipline. This person is a very good teacher and a benefit to the department.  Is there a way to make an exception in this person’s case?  The new Teaching Specialist stipulates that the qualifications for the Teaching Specialist position is the terminal degree in the field.  There can be no exception.
  • When is the Special Appointment the right faculty category, and when is a Teaching Specialist the right one? And where do multiple–year contracts fit in?  Good question! These three types of appointments share in common the fact that they are term appointments for up to three years and those appointed to them are eligible for nearly all faculty development opportunities. None are eligible for a sabbatical.  They differ in expectations, qualifications, and the needs that they fill.
    • Regular multiple-year term appointments. A regular 2 or 3-year term appointment can be made in cases where a department has a clear multiple-year need (such as when a department member is appointed as an Associate Dean or as a director to a program such as CILA), or in cases where the nature of the academic job market for that academic specialization makes it extremely difficult to fill a position. The Faculty Manual’s rules limiting full-time employment of term faculty members to no more than six years applies: “In special cases, full-time term appointments at the instructor level may be renewed beyond six years” (Faculty Manual Section 4.III.E.6).  The cycle of term faculty reviews also applies (Faculty Manual Section 4.VI.C.2).
    • Special Appointments. Now that we have the Teaching Specialist position, the college will increasingly emphasize the “in residence” position as one for appointments of individuals whose expertise is based primarily in practice. (Faculty Manual Section 4.III.H)
    • Teaching Specialists. Briefly summarizing the information conveyed about this position above, this position emphasizes teaching (advising is included in teaching) and service.  People who have distinguished themselves in teaching at the college for an extended period are eligible for the position.
  • OK…so according to the table on page 2, the application to make a TS appointment or to renew it requires a 5-year plan, the position is a 3-year appointment with the possibility of renewal, and there is a review that occurs in the 5th year. Why do I need to make a plan for 5 years when the appointment is a 3-year renewable appointment? We think that once we get some practice with the cycle, it will make sense to everyone. The 3-year appointment is the building block for this appointment.
    • There are a number of reasons to require the application and subsequent requests for subsequent 3-year appointments include a 5-year staffing plan for the position. They include:
      • Allowing planning on the part of the faculty member. A consistent concern expressed by faculty members teaching for many years in term positions is that it is difficult for them to plan, given what are sometimes late hires.  While we will always have situations when hires need to be made at the last minute, we should also be planning sufficiently in advance to keep these at the necessary minimum.
      • Allowing departments and programs to plan. Department chairs and program directors can be frustrated with discovering while planning the class and lab that an individual is not available to fill a course. They also can find themselves, annually, sorting out staffing needs that are relatively predictable. Many departments already keep a 5-year (or longer) staffing plan that they update annually.  This is good practice.
      • Encouraging department chairs, program directors, and associate deans to communicate about staffing needs and plans. Being clear with each other about how a TS faculty member will be employed by one or more departments or programs will help directors in recruiting for their programs and help departments chairs and associate deans know who is available.
      • Fulfilling the nature of this position, which is to meet department needs in the medium-term.
    • The review that occurs during every 5th year helps contribute to a request for a subsequent appointment. It is also consistent with the Faculty Manual language calling for reviews of all term faculty members in the 1st, 2nd and 5th years of service.
  • Can the 5-year plan change? The plan is seen as a commitment by the departments and programs on the one hand and the faculty member on the other.  Both parties enjoy the benefits of stability, and each party has the right to expect that the other will uphold the agreement.  Circumstances and needs can change, though.  Because this is a 3-year appointment, requests to appoint to a subsequent term presents the opportunity for refreshing and extending the 5-year plan.  Of course, chairs and directors need to manage resources and support the curriculum.  As would be the case for someone in a tenured or tenure-track appointment, the Teaching Specialist may be asked to substitute one type of course for another.  Reasons for such requests can include enrollment pressures or the need to redeploy an individual if a course is closed for low enrollment, or staffing emergencies.
  • What happens to someone in a TS position when the need for .67 FTE for the next five years is over? This is a new type of position, so we will need to continue to be alert to this issue.  For the time being, we expect to apply an approach that we use in the case of individuals whose employment level reaches .5 FTE or above, which then qualifies them for a “base” salary.  In subsequent appointments, should an individual’s FTE fall to the adjunct level, the Dean’s Office typically keeps her or him on the “base” compensation, unless there is a hiatus in employment.  This allows the individual to keep a higher compensation rate despite variations in the level of employment.  Applying this approach to the Teaching Specialist position, should the need for a Teaching Specialist’s teaching fall below .67 FTE for the next 5-year period, we expect that the individual would keep the title and continue to receive the pro-rated IPAT based on their employment at the time.  Whether the individual should have a multiple-year contract at that point should be discussed with the Associate Dean(s).