Guidelines for Effective Teaching

I. INTRODUCTION

A.There is no "best way" to teach, only alternatives whose effectiveness depends on your goals and students.

B. Experiment, evaluate, find your way.

II. COURSE DESIGN

A. Identify the objectives of your course

1. What skills, capabilities, or behavior do you want to develop in your students? Be able to state precisely 3-5 of these objectives

2. How will you evaluate whether your students have met these goals?

B. Planning a syllabus

1. The process:

a. Build from your statement of objectives

b. Define major areas to be includedconsult textbooks, curriculum guides, journals, colleagues

c. Decide on a logical sequence of topics (pay particular attention to beginning and end)

d. Choose readings: to complement, repeat, conflict, add detail; textbook or not?

e. Clearly state requirements and grading policy

f. Are there connections to other courses that you can or want to build on? That you want to prepare students for?

g. Have you allowed for differences in preparation and background of students?

h. Timing: Do you fit the academic calendar, holidays, student tempo?

2. Characteristics:

a. Is it clear? Could you reconstruct the course from the syllabus?

b. Is it meaty?

c. Is it flexible? Can student input be incorporated?

d. Are readings, lectures and other work coordinated?

e. Is there a separation of major and minor points?

f. Is there a theme? A sense of intellectual movement?

C. Ask colleagues to look it over and comment

III. CONDUCTING THE CLASS

A. First day hints

1. Find your room ahead of time and make sure it is appropriate for the kind of course you have designed.

2. Learn student names (use 3 X 5 cards or seating chart) and something about their background.

3. Identify yourself and the course and distribute syllabi.

a. Explain your conception of class; invite reactions, questions

b. Explain the ground rules of your class, i.e., asking questions, a break, etc.

c. Introduce readings

d. Say something about yourself and the genesis of your interest in the field.

4. Plan sufficient material--make "a running start."

B. Planning individual classes

1. Decide on the major points or concepts you want to introduce.

a. Consider students' difficulty grasping ideas at abstract level

b. Select representative detail or helpful analogies

2. Plan for transitions between major pointsshow their relationships.

3. Devise questions which will test whether the students have grasped a concept.

4. Practice beforehand: out loud or a mental walk-through.

5. Time management:

a. Have you been realistic?

b. Leave room for student questions

c. The "first-things-first and well-prepared" approach

C. Opening a class

1. Be early:

a. Get settled; put your materials on the board

b. Ask students' opinion of the course, recent lectures, their needs

2. Pick up from somewhere:

a. Last class, recent events, student preparation

b. Fit this hour into context of the course as a whole

3. Lay out the plan for this hour: give them a framework.

D. Once underway, keep them with you (the human attention span)

1. Vary voice, body language, density of material.

2. Summarize and repeat; do repetition with variation whenever possible.

3. Make clear connections between ideas: transitions.

4. Give evidence of your own enthusiasm and involvement with the material:reveal thought processes, share research and personal experiences.

5. Give them opportunities to test whether they are following you.

E. Closing a class

1. Leave time to summarize.

a. Fit today's class into the context of the course (again)

2. Set yourself up for the next meeting.

a. Recommend an idea to think about

b. Request written assignments?

3. Be available afterward for questions and discussion.

IV. IF DISCUSSION IS YOUR PRIMARY PURPOSE:

A. Discussion aspect #1-- asking questions

1. Mix informational with more abstract questions; avoid a whole series of questions with brief or factual answers.

2. Allow sufficient time after asking a question for students to answer (at least 30 seconds).

3. If a question is still followed by silence, don't panic; simply refine or make more specific.

4. Don't ask a question that seems open-ended when in fact you have a particular answer in mind.

B. Discussion aspect #2 -- encouraging student participation

1. Give positive feedback when students take part:

a. Paraphrase and use their ideas

b. Body language

c. Encourage answers, even "wrong" ones; never humiliate a student for an incorrect response

2. Use their questions; turn the question to the class; encourage students to talk to each other.

3. Say "I don't know" when you don't know.

V. IF YOU'RE LECTURING

A.Be clear why you chose to cover certain material through a lecture rather than through some other means.

B.Prepare beforehand: write it out; prepare notes or outline.

1. First define your topic and up to 3-5 key concepts; structure additional material around these major points.

2. Build in an introduction to the whole lecture, followed by the body of your remarks and then a summary restating the key concepts again.

3. Think of examples, analogies, jokes, audiovisual aids that will make the material vivid to students.

C. Delivery

1. Establish some rapport with the class, by allusion to the last lecture, an administrative detail, etc.

2. In your introduction, make it clear what you are going to do and why it is important; Indicate whether you will take questions during or only after the lecture.

3. Periodically summarize and repeat major points, in a slightly different way, if possible.

4. Keep eye contact, vary voice, avoid strange mannerisms and such verbal crutches as "uh."

5. Watch students' body language and note-taking for clues on their reaction.

6. End with a short summary and a reference to how the material fits in with what follows in the course.

VI. A BAG OF TRICKS: OTHER TEACHING STRATEGIES

A.Teaching with questions (Socratic)

B.Recruit student participation

C.Games and simulations; role plays

D.Use something unexpected or outlandish

E.Small groups/brainstorming

F.Audiovisual aids: films, slides, tapes, etc.

G. Share discussion leadership with students (but give them careful guidelines on how to prepare)

VII. IN SUMMARY

A. Remember: find your way

B. Experimenting requires feedback

C. Sources of feedback

1. Your students: through informal questioning, written questionnaires, etc.

2. Fellow teachers.

3. The Center for Teaching and Learning:

a. Mid-quarter evaluation forms

b. The consultation process, with or without videotaping

c. Student small group evaluation