Open@VT

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New open textbook: Teaching in the University: Learning from Graduate Students and Early Career Faculty

by Anita Walz, posted on March 1, 2022

by Max Esterhuizen with Anita Walz and Donna Westfall-Rudd

New book helps instructors increase the effectiveness of teaching diverse groups of students.

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Virginia Tech Publishing have released a new open textbook titled Teaching in the University: Learning from Graduate Students and Early Career Faculty.

The book is written by 20 current and former students in the Graduate Teaching Scholars Program and is edited by Donna Westfall-Rudd, the director of the program and associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership and Community Education, and recent Ph.D. recipients and program teaching assistants Courtney Vengrin ‘15 and Jeremy Elliot-Engel ‘18. Leah Hamilton, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Food Science and Technology, peer-reviewed the book.

book cover
Cover design: Kindred Grey

As an Open Educational Resource, this textbook provides free access to peer-reviewed guidance and reflection on becoming an instructor based on the experiences of fellow new instructors.

The edited collection provides insight and strategies for successful teaching, advising, and mentoring of graduate students. The authors offer support and encouragement for the implementation of student-centered teaching practices relevant to college classrooms. They offer this resource for fellow faculty and graduate students to improve instruction and engagement.

The idea for the book came about to help increase the effectiveness of teaching diverse groups of students — experiences those new instructors may not yet have. 

“We had our graduate students, all instructors of record in their own right, drive the topics through their experiences as diverse graduate students to give insight into how to best set these students up for success,” Westfall-Rudd said. “The book emphasizes our expertise in that area.”

Inside the book, chapters focus on individual perspectives, including one written by an Indigenous graduate student and how she brought her unique perspectives of learning and knowledge into the classroom where she taught engineering courses.

The University Libraries at Virginia Tech advised the editors throughout the publication development process, blending traditional publication processes including chapter proposal peer review, manuscript peer review, graphic design, and professional copyediting with author-led and student-informed open education practices, Creative Commons licensing, and open access availability. Chapters were proposed and authored by early-career faculty who had not previously had an opportunity to write a book chapter. According to Anita Walz, Assistant Director for Open Education at the University Libraries, “The completion of this project reflects many layers of learning — learning to teach, learning to write for publication, integrating personal experience and existing scholarship, learning to coordinate an edited volume. And these all during the early stages of a global pandemic; the team has much to be proud of in presenting this edited volume.” 

“The professionalism of University Libraries’ Open Education Initiative and Virginia Tech Publishing is tremendous,” Westfall-Rudd said. “They worked with us patiently and are in such a strong position to aid our new faculty and educate them on the publishing process.”

As a result of the partnership, the program added instruction on how to publish Open Educational Resources (OER)

Publication of this book was made possible in part by the Open Education Faculty Initiative Grant program of the University Libraries at Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech’s open textbook titles are hosted in VTechWorks and listed as Virginia Tech Open Education Initiative projects. The book is published by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in association with Virginia Tech Publishing.

There are a variety of methods to access the freely-available book:

Suggested Citation:

Westfall-Rudd, D., Vengrin, C., and Elliott-Engel, J. (eds.) (2022). Teaching in the University: Learning from Graduate Students and Early-Career Faculty. Blacksburg: Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. https://doi.org/10.21061/universityteaching License: CC BY-NC 4.0.