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Class Management

Tips marked with an * indicates that the tip is consistent with learning-centered teaching

Positive Room Climate

A Guiding Principle for your interactions with Students

Try to keep this in mind in all your interactions with students: Students will forget what you say, forget what you do, but they will never forget how you make them feel. Thanks to Ed. Neal, a faculty developer at UNC for reminding us of this important guiding principle.

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First day of class

Probably the most important agenda items to do the first day of class is to establish rapport with the students. The time you spend establishing rapport will pay off throughout the semester.
Try to make the students feel comfortable and help them overcome their anxieties about this class.If possible try to learn their names as early as possible in the semester as possible. This is even more appreciated in large classes.
Your interaction style may have greater impact on your success as an instructor than your knowledge of the discipline.

First day of class

Probably one of the most important tasks for the first day of class in a new semester, especially with new students, is to establish a positive classroom climate. Here are some ways to establish and maintain a positive classroom:

  1. get to class early and chat with students as you set up
  2. put the class name and number on board in bold letters so those who are in wrong place can leave before you begin
  3. carefully structure how you will begin the class - people form first impressions early provide information about you, the course let the excitement about the field flow from you to the students use some humor
  4. If you take roll, ask some questions of the students as you to get to know them a bit. Let them ask questions about you
  5. Make expectations, availability, etc. clear
  6. Directly state the goals for the course
  7. Model procedures you will be following such as: outline major topics to be covered in class introduce, cover and wrap-up topic class participation
  8. Learn students names as quickly as possible-use tools if necessary
  9. Answer questions
  10. Stick around after class if someone wants to talk to you individually

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Showing concern and helping students in times of tragedy

In the wake of tragedies a particular group of individuals get blamed by the media. Unfortunately sometimes there is a backlash against people who share an ethnic/cultural/religious heritage with those accused. As faculty and role models it is especially important that we try to protect our students from this hatred being expressed on our campus. It is appropriate to announce that misguided generalizations about certain groups do not apply to everyone in that group, to show support for our students of that religious heritage and offer your students opportunities to talk to you privately if they need to.

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Do your students show respect and civility in your classroom?

Some faculty have noticed that there is more cross talk (not directed to the lecturer, or not on the topic when asked to discuss) and some students are coming in late or leaving early. If this is a problem in your classes, find out why it is happening. Give a 3x5 index card out and ask students to list why students are not showing respect, or engaging in more talk that does not pertain to the classroom. Ask them if they have any solutions. Then as soon as possible try to talk to the class about what they said and what you are going to do about it.

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How to handle innovations in your courses

Many faculty are trying innovations in their courses, either in requiring more active learning by the students, using technology more or made changes to the way the course was run from last year. Change is difficult for everyone, especially students.

  1. Spend some time going over the new expectations or changes with your students. Answer their questions and prime them for what they will be doing or different responsibilities. The students had expectations about what would happen and you have changed them. They might resist even a good change just because it is not what they expected
  2. Allow extra item in your planning the first time the innovation is introduced.
  3. Do not expect the innovation to be perfect the first time you do it
  4. If you are making major changes, let your colleagues know about it and keep your chair informed as you go through the course. Course evaluations may not look like they did in previous years
  5. Share your innovations with all the faculty and let us all celebrate your good ideas, perhaps adapt it for other uses.

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If you can help your students to feel comfortable saying and believing each of the 4 following statements, you will probably significantly help them to succeed

  1. I do not know
  2. I do not understand that, can you explain it?
  3. I made a mistake, how can I correct it now?
  4. I am proud of what I did

Paula Kramer, the chair of the OT Department at USP suggested this tip.

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How are your students feeling (psychologically) and doing?

Take a lesson from the USP Advisor of the Year from 1999-2000, Bob Morgan. He feels the most important part of his teaching (and his students agree) is the individual time he takes with students and how much he shows that he cares about all of them. To put this philosophy into practice, spend a few minutes in class from time to time reaching out to the students as people. Ask how they are feeling if they are happy at USP, with their classes, major, etc.

As a result of asking students, Bob reports that about 1/3 of the current first year class questions if they make the right decision coming to USP. Remember adjusting to this new phase of their lives is difficult.

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Avoiding the mid-semester or March doldrums in your classes

Mid-semester students often seem less interested than usual. To regain their attention, or capture their interest, try some thing different in your classes. Change what you do in a creative way. Try a new activity with your class or change the peace or pattern of the class.

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Inviting guest experts to your classroom

If you are planning to invite a guest expert to your classroom, here are few suggestion:

  • Steer clear of inviting the person to do a presentation or speech
  • Invite the person for a get acquainted with you or your work session
  • You should interview the person during the class that way you can make sure the speaker sticks to what are your objectives for the session and the level of the class
  • Ask the students to prepare a few questions on the topic in advance
  • Screen the questions and then let the students ask the questions during the interview as they flow naturally

These ideas come from Lynn Sorenson at Brigham Young University

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*Do students pack up before the class is over?

To avoid premature preparation for leaving:

  1. List all items you want to cover on the board
  2. Have a student summarize all points made thus far prior to the last point on the agenda
  3. Then cover the last point, allowing time for closure

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Maintaining a good atmosphere for teaching and learning through to the end of the school year

Toward the end of the semester, especially during the spring semester, some students seem a little less connected to their courses. One way to maintain their connection to the faculty and to each other is to encourage all students to treat each other and you with humility. Do not allow students to say any ridiculing remarks about any one else. Put downs of others are not part of good discussions. You can institute this policy any time, reinforce it and most important, model it yourself.

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Being prepared for class

Having all materials for class - Roger's box. Roger Ideishi a OT faculty member, keeps all necessary materials for class in a plastic box. Items to include chalk, dry erase markers, erasers, post-up notes, index cards, tissues, pens, pencils, reading glasses.

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Be prepared if your voice leaves you

This teaching tip comes from my personal experience. I was giving a presentation as the invited keynote speaker at another college and I started coughing from a cold. For the next few minutes I could not speak. So, here is another thing to add to Roger's box - a few cough drops. Once the drop (that someone else provided me with) had dissolved my voice was fine and I could continue.

Other possibilities for such a time are to give a short classroom assessment technique that the students have to write some review or some questions until your voice returns.

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Catching up if you lost time from your schedule

If you are currently a class or two behind, take some time now to preplan the rest of the semester. Don't just drop the last topic because you never got to it. You have several options-look at the material to be covered and decide if some topic can be shortened or have the students cover the material on their own. The students could cover a chapter on their own by doing exercises or problems and then get a quiz grade for their efforts. Perhaps you want to restructure some-in-class assignments or assessment exercises. Whatever you decide to do, put your revisions in writing and distribute the revised plan to your students as quickly as you can. This will give the students a sense of comfort and security that you have realigned the course and will not just jam everything into the remaining time.

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New Year's Teaching Improvement Resolution

A colleague of mine, Kevin M. Johnston at Michigan State U. did a survey of students concerning the most irritating behaviors of faculty. I am sure his findings generalize to our campus. Read over his list of the top most irritating faculty behaviors and see if you could improve just 1 of these irritating behaviors. Resolve that for 2002, you will improve 1 of these behaviors (in no particular order):

  • showing up late for class
  • not controlling the class
  • not showing up for office hours
  • making students feel stupid, putting them down, or not showing them respect
  • not getting to know the students
  • not following the syllabus
  • writing on the board and blocking the information
  • talking to the board

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Are you feeling behind in your class schedule?

Sometimes we lose class time due to weather or other situations that were not planned in the original schedule. If you are feeling that you are 1-2 classes behind where you planned to be now, take a look at your remaining classes. Can you change some of your regularly scheduled class time to be a distance activity? For example, can you post your lecture notes for a easier to understand class electronically and then ask the students to do the homework or exercises in class on their own and then hand it in. Or you might ask the students to read the textbook on the material that will not be covered in class and for you to be available during office hours to answer any questions from the material they need to cover on their own.

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*Still time to revise your syllabi

As the first week of the semester draws to a close, it is a good time to make a few changes in your syllabi. Before doing so gather some data from your students. Perhaps they would like to see the test dates or due dates for assignments modified a little bit to ease their overly heavy days. Do the students understand what is expected of them? Perhaps you need to elaborate on what you want them to do. After seeing who is registered for the class, do you need to modify the schedule a little? Perhaps you need to spend more or less time on the introductory material at the beginning of the semester. Did enough copies of the textbook arrive at the book store or do you need to modify some early assignments? These are the types of minor modifications that you can make now and go a long way to improving student learning and satisfaction in your courses.

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Setting the right tone for your class, getting to know your students

Early on in the semester, have a discussion with the students (can be in small groups, with summaries reported back to you) about what they expect in a class. What have they liked or disliked about classes in the past. Ask whose responsibility is it to establish or maintain such a climate or a policy? This short discussion can give you insights into how to improve your class and promotes learning-centered teaching.

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Making large classes more manageable

If you form groups for administrative purposes the size of a large class can be more manageable. For example, each group can have a folder and the folder can be how papers are handed in to you or you to them. Once you have groups you might consider doing small group activities with them. If you are going to do small group activities you might arrange the groups by dividing the class in half by previous grades. SAT scores, etc. then plug groups together by counting off students from the top of the class to the middle and the middle to the bottom. That way you have heterogeneous groups, but not so diverse that it can be frustrating.

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*Getting students to focus on the class content as they enter

Students can postpone starting a class by coming in a little late or come on time and not focus on your class right away. Giving students a warm up activity as they enter can get them focused on your class and help fill the time effectively as class is starting. Barbara Millis, who came to this campus last year, suggests the following warm-up activity: Ask students to write down their knowledge of the specific topic that you will be convering in class, (this technique can work for lecture classes as well as other formats.) This list formation will focus them on the content of the class and perhaps remind them that they are supposed to come to class prepared and have read the material before class.

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*Helping students learn to assess their knowledge and to study more effectively

Ellen Flannery-Schroeder shared this easy to use tip with us in the last TableTalks.

When you are constructing an exam you usually have a few dimensions you are testing on. Give students feedback on what dimension this question covered when you return the tests. For example, Ellen takes her text questions both from her notes and from the textbook (not covered in class).

She also asks factual and applied questions. Therefore, she asks students to construct a 2x2 grid (where came from vs. type of question). When students get an answer wrong they mark the appropriate cell. They then know their own areas of weaknesses, e.g., applied questions from the textbook. Her students loved this technique and felt that it helped them to prepare better for future texts. While Ellen does this with multiple choice questions, you could use it with other types of questions. You might also change the dimensions to fit your dimensions. Asking students to make this grid on the answers they got wrong takes some of their anger away on the questions themselves and lets them see their areas of weakness.

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Getting information about the students during the first days of class

Many of us ask for contact information about our students , such as names, email addresses, phone number (especially cell phone number), address, major, etc. at the beginning of the course. Kevin Wolbach suggests that you ask students to tell you a little about themselves, such as interests or hobbies, outside responsibilities, etc. Kevin also suggests that you use this card to ask students if they have any questions about the course. This way you can gain a little feedback on how clear the syllabus or you were the first day. Try to answer these questions as soon as you can.

Take the first week of class in stride, it is one of the most stressful for all faculty.

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Increasing student satisfaction and decreasing student anxiety in your course through knowledge of dates for evaluation

A recent study of domains that students like and those that cause them anxiety found an inverse relationship between satisfaction and anxiety on items that tell students what to expect and what they will do. While this finding was true for all levels of students, it was the truest for undergraduate students. Giving students a course syllabus, dates for tests and deadlines for assignments in advance, and having specific grading criteria outlined in advance were the items valued the highest by students compared to domains that were valued less including those that focused on content of lectures and clear outlines of lectures. Further the results of this study found that students are frequently less concerned about the content of a course, what they will be tested on, or how they will be tested than they were about receiving advance information related to what to expect and when in terms of evaluations. The study was conducted at a school where the students carry a high number of credits per term and often feel time pressured.

The study was reported by DeRoma and Slater, Student Preferences for specific domains of course structure. Journal of Student-Centered Learning, 2005, 2:131-137.

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Establishing a positive classroom climate from the beginning

According to research students typically decide what kind of teacher you are and what kind of class this will be within the first 15 minutes of the first class. Here are some ideas to get the class off to a good start:

  • Put the class name and number on the board before class so students can check if they are in the right room
  • Be very enthusiastic about the discipline you are teaching and the course itself
  • Use a little humor
  • Try to get to know students as asking them something about themselves (either orally or on a paper)
  • Tell them a little something about yourself
  • If possible, learn students names as quickly as possible and refer to students by name
  • Stress your availability-when and how
  • Come prepared with al the materials you need and plan how you want to conduct the first class more carefully than you usually do.


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Getting students to listen to each other in class discussions

When you ask students to speak in class, do not repeat what they say. If you repeat what they say,the students will learn not to listen to each other and only to listen to you. Also ask your students to comment on each other's comments or to summarize what was said.

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Getting students to hear you

People, especially those with less power or status than you have, do not hear you unless they feel that you will or have listened to them. This is a good tip for interacting with many people, but especially our students,

This tip or way of treating people with civility come from Jennifer Beer the civility speaker at USP on March 2, 2006.

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Learning names of students early in the class

Draw a small box in front of the last name of your students on the class list prior to class. During the first class, divide the students into groups of threes and ask them to introduce themselves to one another and share some information about themselves. Then ask students within groups to introduce each other, e.g. a introduces b, b introduces c, c introduces a and talks about them.

As soon as the person is introduced, find his/her name on your class roster. Write down any nicknames or how to pronounce the name. Look directly at the student being introduced and silently repeat his/her name. Once the introduction is over, address the introduced person by name and ask a question to that person. Acknowledge the student by name after the comment and use the name again asking that person to introduce the next person. Try to use each person's name at least 2-3 times. During the rest of the class make an effort to call on each student by name whenever you can.

Place a dot in box relating to the location in the room where the student is sitting, top-back, bottom, front, left, right. Most students will sit in the same place next class, especially since they either were sitting with their friends or have now gotten to know some students in the room better. Learning student names helps students to think you regard them as individuals and with respect. Students will know there is no hiding in your class.

This idea comes from David Howle (2005) The Best of the Teaching Professor, p.32 Magna Publishers.


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Helping students who are not doing well in your class

It is a good idea to make an effort to help students who are not doing well in your classes. You might make a special effort to call them in for a 1:1 chat, offer tutoring, remind them of SI tutoring, ask them to talk to their advisor, etc. Sometimes the personal reaching out may be enough to help them get the help they need or make a connection with you. However, actually contacting them can be time consuming and if we send out a broad email to all students who are not doing well we are violating their privacy and students may not read mass messages. However, if you email the message to yourself and put the students' names as a blind copy, each student will receive the email with only his/her name on it. You can easily select the students you want to email from the class list if you have set up a BlackBoard account for this course.


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Making sense of students' complaints that the instructor or the course was unfair

Research shows that students complain that a course or an instructor was unfair when there is a disconnect among the goals or objectives of the class, what the instructor did in class, such as how the students were taught, what the students were expected to do and how they were assessed. Courses that are aligned or consistent in all of these areas are more likely to be perceived as fair. Students might think that they are too difficult or too challenging, but fair if they are aligned.

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Getting your students to appreciate you

Some schools use a voluntary thank your professor activity where students can write notes to their professors to thank them for any number of things. It is a way to show appreciation for a professor. When people analyze what students thank professors for the most, the characteristic most frequently valued is that the professor showed they cared about the student as a person and as a learner.

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How to handle a dysfunctional group

Often when students are assigned group tasks, one student does much more work than the others. If you hear this is happening in several of your groups, remove the over-achiever from their groups, and put all of them together. This will serve lots of purposes: the over-achievers will be rewarded by being in a great group that can really get things done, the less motivated students will have to work harder to get the job done and there will be more group learning.

Barbara Oakley suggested this idea

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Dealing with a student who does not seem to listen to you in a 1:1 situation

When you feel you are knocking your head against a wall trying to get your point across to a student, especially if it is about a difference of opinion or a grade, it might be more that the student feels that you are not listening to him/her. People can only hear to learn or come to understand when they feel they have been listened to.

Jenny Beer suggested this tip.

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Helping students to realize that they earn their grades

Just prior to when you are about to go over your grading schemes for your courses, ask your students to note what grade they expect or hope to make in this course. Then tell them what you expect that they will do to earn an A,B,C etc. This is especially important if you have different work or additional work to earn a higher grade. Some students think that doing all the assignments earns them an A. You might talk about the quality of assignments or writing expected and how an A paper exceeds the quality of a B paper. If you allow students to redo an assignment but then can only earn a grade less than full credit on the second try, make sure you tell them that point.

Andrew Peterson suggested this tip.

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The importance of food for classes during meal times, especially over dinner

If you teach long classes that run over a meal time and especially those that start at 5 or 6PM, insure that they are not hungry. You can either bring food and put out a plate to cover the costs of the food or ask students, on a rotating basis to bring food to share with others. Try to provide real meal food and not just empty sugar calories. Students will concentrate better when they are not hungry and will also like your class better.

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Rules of effective dialogue in the classroom

You can either use this technique at the beginning of a semester or part way through when you are not pleased with the civility in the classroom.

Begin the discussion by asking the class to list as a large group the things that other classmates do or the instructor does that drive you crazy. Then ask people to list the behaviors that people could do to make the classes more enjoyable. Then ask the class, for today, would everyone please practices using the behaviors that would make class more enjoyable and refrain from using the behaviors that drive people crazy. At the end ask the class if the class was more enjoyable and would they like to continue using these rules of dialogue. The goal is to continue these rules so that they become the class norm. Ultimately, the class collectively should police each other's behaviors without 1 person, especially the instructor being the heavy-handed person. If you can achieve these goals, your class will be more comfortable and a safer place.

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Do your student's grandparents always die when there are deadlines?

I read of a clever way to see if your students are telling the truth about their grandparents passing away when you have assignments. Send a sympathy card to the student's family. If the person did pass away, you will be seen as very compassionate. If not, the family caught your student in a lie and most likely your student will not try this again.

Karen Eifler of University of Portland wrote about this in the Teaching Professor, March 2006.

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*Grading for student groups

Excellent students are often anxious about receiving group grades for group assignments because they feel their grade may be lower than what they usually receive. Students need to have a mechanism for letting you know about their peers who did not contribute or were even worse. You need to give students permission to fire a group member or leave the group themselves to become part of another group. However, before they take such a drastic step, they should try to work out problems and discuss their concern with you. If students have not let you know about any problems during the term, they may find that their group project is not as good as it could have been and their grade may reflect that lack of communication.

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Planning low stakes assessments that encourage students to come to class prepared and on time

At every class, at the very beginning of the class, give a 5 minute assessment exercise. Ask 2-3 multiple choice questions on material covered in the reading or any preparation for today's class, and 1 multiple choice or short answer question on the material from the last class. These assessments will take care of attendance, punctuality and encourage better preparation for class. It will also give you feedback on how well students understood what you just covered in enough time to correct any misunderstandings. You can drop a small percentage of the lowest grades in the overall score for these assessments.

This idea come from Todd Zakrajsek of Central Michigan University.

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Verifying their grades with students before the end of the semester

All of us can make mistakes recording grades, but this might be more common with online grade books, such as on Angel. Ask your students to verify the grades you have posted online a week or two before the grades are submitted. As a convenience to your students, determine their cumulative grade thus far so students will know exactly how they are doing.

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How to get information to students at the last minute if you need to cancel class or say you are going to be late

With the approach of winter, we all think, what happens if I cannot get to class on time or need to cancel at the last minute? Tom O'Connor in Pharmacy Practice has a good solution to this problem. Get the cell phone number of two students who regularly attend class and who live close by. If you need to cancel or will be late, call them to notify the class.

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How and why to establish rapport with your students

If you have a mutual rapport with your students, they will be more motivated in your class, they will be more comfortable, their work with be better quality, you and they will be more satisfied with the course and there will be increased trust. As all of these are important characteristics that should be fostered in teaching, the relevant question is, how to establish rapport with your students. Five factors seem to influence this:

    1. Teachers and students must show mutual respect for each other
    2. You have to appear approachable and accessible to them
    3. Be honest with the students and there should be consistency between what you say and what you do.
    4. Show that you care about your students as people and about their learning
    5. Have a positive attitude toward them, and be open to hear their perspective.

These ideas come from Granitz, Koening and Harich in a 2009 article that appeared in the Journal of Marketing Education 31 (1), 52-65

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Making up for lost time in your teaching schedule

Some times we have to cancel class at the last minute due to weather, personal or family issues, illness, etc. These cancellations can cause us to fall behind in our class schedule. If this happens to you, take a gook look at your course schedule for the rest of the semester. Decide which classes would be best handled outside of class time. It does not matter when that class is schedule for, it might even be better if it is a few weeks or more away as it will give you time to prepare the class material differently. There are various ways of covering the content without doing it in class:

  • Deliver your class as you usually do, if it is primarily lecture. Deliver it using course capture technology without the students present. You can schedule this equipment with AV service (Clifford or Bill) when a room is available for your use. Then post the lecture onto the course management site, for now it is Angel@USciences.
  • If a class is largely reviewing material covered in the readings, prepare a study guide and study questions for the students to do on their own, with you being available to help if necessary.
  • If the class is largely a discussion, start threaded discussions on the course management system about the topics. Require the students to participate in these discussions to make up the class. As the discussion progresses, you can pose more probing or follow up questions.
  • If it is a lab:
    • see if you can combine smaller labs into one lab class.
    • see if you can find a computer simulation that will allow the students to gain the same knowledge or skills using the simulation. There are many good computer simulations and exercises available on Merlot.

Whatever you decide to do, tell the students of your plans, which class will be in an alternative format, when it will be available or required for them to participate, etc. Let them know as soon as you decide. Even before you decide what you want to do, tell the students you are working on a plan to make up for lost time.

Most of all, don't panic or rush your teaching to get all of the content in.

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Establishing the right tone in your courses

Faculty have preferred ways to conduct their classes and have individual policies. However, these practices and policies differ from one instructor to another and students do not know your policies unless you explicitly inform them. On the first day of class and on the course page in your learning management system (Angel or BlackBoard), you might address the following issues, among others:

  1. Do you prefer to finish your presentation of new material before students ask questions or can students interrupt with questions any time?
  2. What kinds of student collaboration are encouraged, acceptable and what is not allowed. We often give mixed messages that students can interpret differently. For example, if they can collaborate on project work, such as labs, you need to tell them if they can also collaborate on the written reports coming from the projects, such as lab reports.
  3. What is your policy about how material is to be handed in-must be on paper, in your drop box in the learning management system or emailed to you through the university email?
  4. Do you allow students to come late to class or prefer that they skip the class?
  5. What reference citation style will you accept for their writing?
  6. How should they contact you if they need to see you outside of office hours?
  7. What is acceptable in terms of how formally or informally students send you electronic messages and in what medium would you prefer to receive them?

There are many others As you think of the answers to these questions, you might start developing an information sheets that you can attach to all course shells on your course page in Angel or BlackBoard. you can add more ideas to this list over time.

When students know these policies and practices, they are more likely to get off to a good start in your course and not violate rules unintentionally.

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Motivating students to succeed

Motivational speakers inspire all of us. You can take a few tips from them in your own teaching. Put positive mottos or inspirational statements on your syllabus and communicate them to the students in class. Encourage our students to want to excel in your class by helping them to do more than they thought they could.

When you describe the goals of the course, do so with enthusiasm. do so with enthusiasm. Personal connections make a big difference. Try to learn your students' names as quickly as possible, and refer to them by name. If you have a large class or if you are not

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Don't hold your students to a different standard than many of us employ regarding electronic devices

I, like you, attend many meetings. I have noticed that when meetings get a little boring or when they seem to go on for awhile, many of us pull out our electronic devices such as our cell phones. IPads, and start doing other things, like check our messages, surf the web or play a game. However, when our students do that in class, we get annoyed. Perhaps we should reflect on what causes all of us, including our students, to start attending to our electronic devices. If students are expressing boredom or lack of concentration on what we are saying in our classes, we need to make class more engaging for the students. In the classes that I have taught or observed, students do not use electronic devices in a non-class way when they are seriously involved with the material such as through small group problem solving exercises. Another option is to employ these devices briefly in your class, such as asking students to find information that is available on the web, answer clicker questions, view a video etc.

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Helping students to share control of their courses leads to further learning

One of the basic tenets of learning-centered teaching is that students should have some control over their courses. Some course policies, such as attendance, tardiness, acceptance of late work, eating in class, cell phones or electronic devices in class, retesting or rewriting papers, can be determined by the students and instructor together. You need to explain why you are allowing them to decide on these policies. Explanations might include sharing creates ownership for the students and fosters a sense of community.

Doyle (2011) offers a way to achieve this balance of power on the first day of class. After explaining why students should share in the decision making have the students spend 5-10 minutes discussing about policies you want their input on. Then ask the groups to report by going around and getting their input on one policy at a time. You record their answers. Have a very brief discussion about each policy to see if there is consensus or several good ideas. Then you formulate a policy statement and present it to the students on the next class. You can ask the students to vote on these policies to reinforce their acceptance. Then put them into your syllabus.

Doyle (2011) book Learner-centered teaching, Stylus can be borrowed from the Teaching and Learning Center.

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Getting more students to participate in class or online

The climate in the class and the instructor's behaviors play a big role in fostering or inhibiting student participation in class. Ways to foster participation include:

  • Paying attention to students, show that you care about them
  • Recognizing them as individuals, calling on them by name
  • Showing respect for them, their culture, their lives
  • Supporting them as they try
  • Not being opinionated
  • Provide verbal and nonverbal feedback
  • Welcome diverse perspectives
  • Try to shape a wrong answer to be more correct without putting down the student
  • Wait sufficient time before calling on someone
  • Try to call on as many people as possible
  • Encouraging students to show respect, civility for each other

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Making sure students understand an assignment

While we think our assignments are quite clear, they may not be so clear to the students. Students may not understand what they re expected to do, how much they are to write, if they can collaborate with others on the assignment, etc. This is especially true if you are using innovative assignments or authentic assessments. You can help everyone out, make sure everyone hears the same thing, save yourself time and you will not have to repeat yourself if you create an assignment blog or threaded chat on your learning management system. You can encourage students to answer the questions and you only need to step in if they are wrong. You can also use this online discussion to identify areas that previous students found difficult or - helping students with career choices.

This idea comes from Fluckiger, Tixier, Virgil, Pasco, & Danielson (2010). Formative Feedback, College Teaching, 58, 136-140.

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Handling Complaints

Students can get upset with you and often they are empowered to complain to you. When students complain to you, do not take it personally. They may be criticizing what you do or how you graded them, but to not get defensive. Find out what they want from you. Listen carefully to what they say, and repeat back what you are hearing without putting in your own judgments or interpretations. Do not act impulsively, allow yourself time to think about a response, even if you have to say to them that you will get back to them. If you need to put something in writing, do it very carefully and don't send the response immediately. If you think this might develop into a larger issue, take notes for yourself. These notes should contain only the facts, the ate and not your speculations or your feelings. If necessary get outside help, either as a mediator, or to help you sort things out or to follow the correct procedure.

Some of these ideas come from Tina Gunsalus of the University of Illinois.

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Getting your classes off to a good start

Here are a few tips to establish a positive environment from the start of your classes:

1. Put the class name and number on the board so that students know they are in the right place.

2. Students form a lasting opinion of the class and especially of you within the first fifteen minutes of the class. So be sure you are enthusiastic during the first class. Be enthusiastic about:

  • The content to be learned and its value
  • Your desire to teach
  • How much you want the students to succeed
  • The students
  • The learning process that will take place both in the classroom and outside of class's

3. Learn students names as quickly as you can, even in large classes. This makes the environment more personal and humane. Ask the students to pronounce their names and ask if they have a preferred name. Make name cards if necessary, take photos of groups of them.

4. Encourage questions.

5. Carefully plan the first class and make it a worthwhile learning experience and not a wasted hour.

Enjoy the first week of classes. You are more ready to start the year than most students are.

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Avoiding ambiguity, avoiding having to take students through the conduct process

Some times when we write directions or policies we do not convey the exact meaning of what we mean. Other people may have a different interpretation. To prevent that write all directions and policies very carefully, check them a few times at a later date, but before distributing them to your students. Then ask other people to read what you wrote and ask questions. Make sure you are clear if collaboration is allowed, will it be open book/open internet, what happens if two people hand in similar papers, etc. When these issues are not clear, faculty may perceive that the student is violating academic integrity issues and feel that the student needs to go through the conduct process. Finally learn from what you did or said previously and make your written statements more clear for the next time you teach.

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Developing a complete syllabus

Try to develop a more complete syllabus for your course than you think might be necessary. Also post all of this information on your course's Blackboard site.
In addition to the regular things like required readings, how to contact you, course outline, how they will be graded, etc. try to anticipate all of the questions the students might ask or might assume incorrectly:

  • List all of the policies for the course including lateness, attendance, handing in assignments late, make-up, expectation for written assignments, food in class, what they should do if they miss a class, etc.
  • Tips on succeeding in this course, perhaps advise form previous students
  • Model or exceptional papers
  • Describe what will happen in class such as active learning activities

The bottom line for all of this you need to plan your course very carefully before you can finalize your syllabus.

I am happy to look over your syllabi before classes start.

Let's get off to a good start of the year.

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