A year in the life of an Arts First instructor

The Arts First program depends on a dedicated group of over 30 instructors each term, from over 20 departments and units across the Faculty of Arts, who volunteer to share the excitement of their research while helping small classes of first year students develop communication competencies. 

The Arts First program supports instructors in developing new teaching methods and practices throughout the year. Here’s the typical roll-out of the Arts First program and pedagogy support.

Early September

The Arts First director and associate director invite instructors to submit proposals (a one page description of the course and how it aligns with Arts First learning outcomes—full syllabi are not expected at this point) to teach a section of either ARTS 130 or 140 for the following academic year by late September to their unit or department chair. Chairs forward proposals to Arts First director and associate director.


The Arts First Advisory Committee meets to assess the proposals. The director and associate director inform chairs and instructors about Arts First teaching assignments for the coming year.

Late January:

Instructors submit Arts First scheduling forms to indicate preferred meet pattern

Early July

Fall teaching schedule released

Early November:

Winter teaching schedule released

All Arts First instructors are then encouraged to meet before and during each teaching term to learn about the program and get peer support on course development.

For Fall instructors

  • Mid-July: pedagogy workshop
  • Early August: call for Pedagogical Enhancement Fund proposals (confirmed mid-August)
  • Mid-September: syllabi due to First Year Program Coordinator
  • Mid-October: check-in workshop

For Winter instructors

  • Early November: call for Pedagogical Enhancement Fund proposals (confirmed mid-November)
  • Mid-November: pedagogy workshop
  • Mid-January: syllabi due to First Year Program Coordinator
  • Early February: check-in workshop

At the pedagogy workshops prior to each term, we discuss the origins and aims of the Arts First program, discuss samples of course syllabi, signature assignments, and dynamic in-class activities, and continue drafting course materials. Instructors also hear about the wide range of resources and support available to them and their students from across campus. Then mid-way through the term, instructors come together again to discuss what’s working in Arts First and trouble-shoot shared challenges.

In addition, the Arts First program also offers instructors workshops on specific pedagogy issues of relevance. Past workshops have focused on providing efficient and effective feedback to students, crafting effective writing assignments, and integrating quantitative data into communication activities.