Teaching Tips for Faculty

Teaching Tips for Faculty

This excerpt from a Course Transformation Guide (PDF) published by Science Education Initiatives provides 8 tips to help faculty in their teaching.

Motivation is important for learning and is an essential part of effective teaching

  • Show that the subject is interesting, relevant, valuable to learn, worthwhile, fun,… Remember that most students do not have the benefit of your experience and perspective.
  • Convey that subject is challenging but all students can master it with effort, and why it is worth the effort.
  • Convey that you care about all students’ successfully learning the material.
  • Avoid: scare tactics, such as saying subject is really difficult; many students will fail, etc. These turn out to be demotivating to many students.

Think of yourself as a “coach of thinking” rather than as a “dispenser of information”.

  • “Learning” requires intense mental activity with resulting changes in the brain of learner.

Feedback that is timely and specific is critical for learning

  • Timely, frequent, detailed feedback that shows how to improve (“formative assessment”) should be provided for all students.
  • Give marks for what you value (homework, reading, in class participation, quizzes, pre-tests, …). For most students, marks define the expectations and what is important in a course.

Teach students how to learn

  • Explicitly model expert thinking, being careful not to skip steps that are automatic for you. Convey how to best learn the material and skills, teach students how to study effectively and what is required for conceptual mastery and retention. These are fairly readily acquired skills that are seldom if ever taught.
  • Know and teach using the best (proven) practices for achieving learning.

Dos and Don’ts for the first week

  • Explain why you are teaching the way you are teaching, why course is worthwhile, what are your goals and expectations. The first classes set the tone for the rest of the term.
  • Explicitly work to establish a desired class culture.
  • Don’t threaten or apologize for what or how you will teach.

Find out what all your students are thinking; recognize they think differently than you do

  • Connect and build on their prior knowledge, explicitly examine student preconceptions.
  • Probe understanding and adjust teaching as appropriate when you find many are not getting it.

Lay out framework, goals, & context for the knowledge and skills you want students to learn

  • Teach the organization and application of the knowledge, rather than just the facts. This is the vital element of mastery that students have the most difficulty perceiving and mastering.

Approach teaching as a challenging subject that can be mastered

  • The ability to teach effectively is not innate – it can be learned much like a scholarly discipline.
  • Understand how people learn and what processes facilitate learning – these are understood.
  • Don’t be afraid to copy what works. Use teaching practices that have been proven to be effective; they are readily replicated.
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