Month: July 2016

Creating an Effective Syllabus, Aug. 2016

Does your syllabus make the grade?  Use the following checklist to create a syllabus that your students will actually read and use:

  • Provide contact information and office hours
  • Present an overview of the course description, goals and objectives
  • List required materials
  • Describe the schedule, assignments, and assessments
  • Clarify policies (including grading criteria) and expectations

Create a syllabus before the start of your course, and be sure to distribute it—perhaps by posting it on HuskyCT.  But don’t stop there; continue to revise the syllabus, marking it up throughout the semester to improve it for the next time you teach the course.

Introduce the syllabus to your students on the first day of class.  If necessary, show them how to read the syllabus; perhaps even conduct a group activity (e.g., a syllabus scavenger hunt) or quiz to ensure that students have read and understand all components of the syllabus.

Visit CETL’s Syllabus web page for sample syllabi and other syllabus-development details, and feel free to contact CETL to schedule a consultation with a faculty development specialist.

Breaking the Ice in the First Class, Aug. 2016

The first day of classes can be daunting for both students and faculty:  Students may be anxious about their professors, as well as about the work load of the course and other expectations; their instructors are likely to be anxious about establishing a positive first impression, conveying the syllabus and other information about the course, and generally setting the right tone for the next 14 weeks.

One way to ease that anxiety is to try an ice breaker, perhaps playing a name game or encouraging students to mingle as they complete a scavenger hunt aimed at learning about one another.  Marilyn Weimer offers the following advice in the “Teaching Professor Blog”:

  • Best and Worst Classes—On one section of the board, write “The best class I ever had,” and on another write, “The worst class I ever had.” Under each, write the subheadings, “What the students did” and “What the teacher did.”  Then ask students to add attributes to lists, being careful not to identify names of teachers or courses.  Afterward, discuss among the class how to capture the best attributes and avoid the worst this semester.
  • First Day Graffiti—On sections of the board or separate flip charts, write the beginning of a sentence; for example, “I learn best in classes where the teacher ___,” “Students in courses help me learn when they ___,” and “I am most likely to participate in classes when ___.” Have students walk around the room and finish the sentences, then discuss them and their significance to your course as a class.
  • Syllabus Speed dating—We hand out syllabi, but do students actually read them? This technique teams students up to search the syllabus and find answers to a series questions, such as “How will participation be graded?” or “What citation style is required in this class? Why?”  This encourages interaction and collaboration while ensuring that your syllabus gets read.

See more about these techniques on the Faculty Focus page First Day of Class Activities.  For even more ideas, visit the University of Michigan’s First Day(s) of Class, and feel free to contact CETL to schedule a consultation with a faculty development specialist.

Fighting First-Day Anxiety, Aug. 2016

Are first-day jitters leaving you feeling anxious and under-prepared?  Have you been waking with a jolt at night after dreaming of being locked out of your classroom, unable to turn on the overhead projector, or incapable of getting your students’ attention?

The first day of class is important on many levels:  It affords you the opportunity to introduce yourself and the course, get a sense of your students, and set the tone for the semester.  It also gives students a chance to try the course out—to get a sense of who you are and what your course will be like.  Carefully plan the first class session, so you are sure to cover everything intended.

Use these guidelines to avoid the kinds of last-minute surprises that can ruin even the best teacher’s confidence.

Before you step into the classroom:

  • Know the rules
  • View your class roster
  • Request a HuskyCT site
  • Order your text books and other course materials
  • Order library reserves
  • Visit your classroom

On the first day:

  • Set a goal
  • Introduce yourself
  • Show an interest in getting to know your students
  • Introduce your course
  • Ask questions
  • Save time for student questions

Visit CETL’s web pages on Preparing for Your First Class and Interacting with Students During Your First Class for suggestions on how to achieve these goals and other helpful details.

If you are new at teaching and unsure about how to establish your identity in the classroom, take a look at the Faculty Focus article Six Myths about a Teaching Persona.  Faculty Focus also recommends a variety of First Day Class Activities, and feel free to contact CETL to schedule a consultation with a faculty development specialist.

Establishing an Effective Classroom Environment, Sept. 2016

How can you create a positive classroom environment in your courses?

Effective classroom management entails meticulous planning but also a readiness to switch gears and move away from the script when necessary.  It requires firm control but also a willingness to relinquish that control to take advantage of a teachable moment.  It requires leadership but also a sense of compassion and understanding of your students.

Consider these techniques as you develop your classroom management style:

  • Begin to establish an effective environment on the first day of class
  • Interact with students right away
  • Be prepared to respond to challenges:
    • What will you do if students consistently arrive unprepared?
    • How will you handle disruptive students?
    • How can you encourage quiet or shy students to become engaged?
    • Should you post your lectures, slides, in-class materials, etc., online?
  • Engage, Engage, Engage

Refer to Classroom Management on the CETL website for more details on establishing an effective environment and managing your classroom, and feel free to contact CETL to schedule a consultation with a faculty development specialist.