Teaching Tips

The following tips have appeared in the Center's weekly newsletter and offer practical information to new and experienced faculty for providing learner-centered teaching.




In the Classroom

Course Design/Development

Student Engagement/Behavior


Teaching Strategies/Behavior

Student Feedback
Need some student feedback BEFORE SOTs? End-of-course student evaluations occur too late to benefit you or currently enrolled students. Why not gather feedback earlier in the semester so that it can be put to immediate use!

Approach a different student during each class, either before or after, and ask for some honest feedback about course impressions, likes, dislikes, and suggestions for improvement. Act on possible suggestions quickly, if within reason, to demonstrate teacher awareness (and "care" ness!) of student needs.

Uncomfortable asking students directly? Try a Start, Stop, Continue approach. Students take 5 minutes at the beginning of class to anonymously write down what you should Start doing, Stop doing, and Continue to do as it relates to his/her ability to succeed in your class. [top of page]
Assessing Prior Knowledge
Research shows that students construct new knowledge based on what they already know (or don't know).

A quick way to assess prior knowledge is to give them a FINGER QUIZ!

For example, "How familiar are you with Donald's Learning to Think?" Raise your hand:

5 fingers = know it well
3 fingers = know something about it
0 fingers (closed fist) = never looked at it.

This not only highlights what's coming for your students but helps show you where to start!

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Cooperative Learning
Cooperative learning is a structured form of small group problem solving that can really enhance learning. Faculty are sometimes hesitant to implement cooperative learning activities due to time constraints-- but the more structured you are, the less time it takes! Here are three rapid reporting methods you may want to try!

1. Three stay, one stray.One person from the group leaves to share his/her group's findings with another group. The members that stay have to share what they've learned when their stray returns home.

2. Luck of the Draw.*Playing cards are used to assign an identity to each student in a group. Students complete tasks together making certain that each group member could serve as a spokesperson. Responses occur by card selected.

3. Gallery Walk.Groups are asked to put main ideas on sticky notes which can be posted for all groups to view.


*You can prepare group assignments in advance using folders. The folder contains the playing cards for that group and the assignment. At the end of the allotted time, the instructor selects a reporter based on the cards (e.g., all face cards report).

Read more about cooperative learning and how it can enhance your classroom at:http://www.theideacenter.org/sites/default/files/IDEA_Paper_38.pdf
(If this link doesn't work, cut and paste into the URL.) [top of page]
Getting Students to Read

Have trouble getting students to read assigned readings? 

Maybe you're sending a message NOT to read!

TIP 1: Make the readings the ONLY available source of the information!
Don't lecture extensively on material that has been assigned for students to read outside of class. Instead, spend class time answering questions, elaborating and extending the ideas, and leading activities to help students better understand and apply the knowledge gained. If students know that you will be repeating the critical information in class, there is no motivation to read it!

TIP 2: Monitor reading compliance!
Failure to make students accountable for doing the readings sends the message that the readings are optional and of little concern to the instructor. Why not try an online quiz in Moodle? It's quick, easy to create, grading is done by the computer, and it doesn't take away from valuable class time.

For more tips on getting your students to read, check out this site: 

http://www.theideacenter.org/sites/default/files/Idea_Paper_40.pdf[top of page]

Promoting Class Participation
Here's a tip from our online subscription of The Teaching Professor. This one was adapted from an article in the August/September issue.
Use Traffic Lights to promote and assess class participation!

At the beginning of the semester have students create three name plates using card stock: one red, one yellow, and one green. Card stock is good to use because it will "stand" on the desktop when folded. Students are to bring the name plates to each class meeting. During class discussion, students must place one of the plates before them. They understand that the red card indicates don't ask me, yellow means they can contribute but not too deeply, and green invites ask me anything. Students also understand that class participation points are associated with each color: two points for green cards, one point for yellow, and no points for red.

There are a lot of ways to tweak this activity to meet your needs. You may have students choose one card for the entire class meeting or you may want to allow students to swap cards as the class discussion changes.

This activity not only provides a quick way for you to assess your students, but it also requires each student to self assess his/her preparation for class. Another plus --- it's a great way for you and your students to learn names! [top of page]
Writing Assignments
Here's a tip from our online subscription of The Teaching Professor. This one was adapted from the article in the 2007 August/September issue written by Amy Getty entitled, "What Are They Doing Over There in the English Department?"

Have you ever given a writing assignment and been disappointed with the results? Amy agrees that our students need to be good writers, but asserts that the responsibility goes beyond the English department. She offers these points to ponder. 

1. A first-year composition course lays a foundation-it does not create perfect writers.

2. No matter our discipline, we are all writing teachers.

3. Teach students to write in your field by identifying clear expectations along with an assignment sheet. You may also want to distribute a simple rubric so students know how they will be assessed and what's expected.

4. Assign more writing. We cannot expect our students to be better writers if we do not ask them to write.

Don't forget we have campus resources to help! [top of page]

The Southeastern Writing Center in DVIC 383 assists students with all their writing needs. http://www.selu.edu/acad_research/programs/writing_center/index.html
What Students Remember

Here's a tip from Linda B. Nilson's Teaching at Its Best: A research-based resource for college instructors.
Want to increase students' learning? Use a variety of teaching techniques and learning media in your classroom.

Students remember about1. 10 percent of what they read2. 10-20 percent of what they hear3. 30 percent of what they see4. 50 percent of what they hear AND see5. 70 percent of what they say6. 90 percent of what they say AND do7. 97 percent when they use three sensory modes ---- auditory, visual and experiential! Some students prefer to learn by listening, some by reading and writing, some by watching, and others by doing hands-on activities. All students learn more and better from a multi-sensory, multi-method instruction.

Which method(s) do you prefer? Take the inventory and read more at the following sites.


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First Day Tips:
Questions that Students DON'T Ask!

1. What should I call you?
Students don't know what to call you if you don't tell them. Some students feel comfortable using first names but many faculty object to this level of informality. Many students would rather use the correct title but they are not sure if you are Dr., Professor, Mr., Ms., etc. Make it easy on both you and your students introduce yourself with your preferred name and title and write it on your syllabus.

2. What will you call me?
Everyone loves to be recognized. Students at Southeastern often comment that our professors take the time to learn their names. To many students, this shows that you care about them as a person. Many students, like faculty, object to some forms of their name. For example, some students object to being called by their last name, "Hey Smith, please read the next passage." Most students prefer to be called by their first name. You may wish to ask students their preference as you disclose your own. Begin learning and using names early to call on your students.

3. Are you trying to scare me?
Unfortunately, some professors use the first class meeting to "show their teeth". They decide the class is too large and they want to cut-it-down quickly so they exaggerate the requirements and expectations of the class. PLEASE - No scare tactics! Students should be given an honest appraisal of the amount of work involved in order to be successful in the class.

4. This class is rather large. Will you really care if I come late or leave early?
Absolutely. Students should be told what the expectations are. Class interruptions (coming late, leaving early, cell phones, etc.) should be addressed. Your behavior (arriving late, leaving early, putting off questions) may send an unwanted message to your students. Let your students know that you will start on time, work to the end, and you expect the same from them.

5. I know you've listed office hours, but will you really be there?
When you list office hours on your syllabus, you need to make every effort to keep them. If you must be away from your desk during scheduled office hours, please leave a note so that students will not wait for you.

6. Will I have to say anything out loud in this class?
On the first day of class you should explain the teaching techniques that you will be using. This may be printed on your syllabus. Many students are terrified of speaking out in class but class participation can help students clarify their thinking. Small group discussions may ease students into class discussions.

7. If I do ask a question, will you make me feel stupid?
It takes some students a long time to generate the courage to ask a question in class. Please be considerate. Students should be able to speak out in class and ask questions without the risk of embarrassment.

8. Does this syllabus really list all the requirements? Last semester I had a professor that announced a term paper two weeks before finals.
The University policy states that you must indicate the "approximate number and type of major examinations, papers, and projects" on your syllabus. If you think you might include additional assignments not mentioned on your syllabus, please warn students early. [top of page]
Promoting Class Attendance
During the first weeks of class, you set the tone for the entire semester. Here's a nice idea noted by Debbie Johnson from the Teaching Professor Conference to reinforce the importance of attending class.

Provide instructions for completing a small project during five minutes of class. Have three or four of your students leave the room. Continue with instructions while they are out. Have them return after one or two minutes. After a couple of steps, have three or four more students leave class and return after one or two minutes. Continue with the project and complete. Ask the "missing" students, "How did it feel to not know what had happened during class? How did you catch up? What would have helped?"

This activity is a great reminder that you can't recreate reality. You need to be present in class. [top of page]
Teaching Mistakes
An issue of The Teaching Professor has an interesting article by Graham Broad, Kings University College, University of Western Ontario entitled, "The Things I Did Badly: Looking Back on My First Five Years of Teaching". His top five are summarized below.
Five Teaching Mistakes

1. Not taking advantage of research on pedagogy. There's more to teaching than instinct and teaching the way we were taught. Keeping up with your field should involve both content AND pedagogy. Take advantage of the pedagogical literature. 

2. Chastising the whole class.
Dealing with students issues on a one-on-one basis (e.g. absences) is often much more effective and lessens the possibility of making the whole class resentful. Of course, there are situations where the whole class MAY need chastising!

3. Being defensive about student complaints.
We are teaching our students to analyze and think critically. Don't object when that critical thinking is applied to you!

4. Answering student email at all hours.
We are entitled to private lives, and do not have to be on call for our students at all times. You may want to establish email hours for responding to student email.

5. Egotism.
Try as we might, we may not reach all students. Some students may simply choose NOT to benefit from our efforts.


For more details, read the entire article---remember, the Center provides you with an online subscription of The Teaching Professor![top of page]

Student Participation
Here's a tip from our online subscription of The Teaching Professor. This one was adapted from the article in the 2008 December issue written by Angie Thompson entitled, "Daily Experts: A Technique to Encourage Student Participation".

List five or six students' names on a PowerPoint slide at the beginning of class. These students become the Daily Experts ---- the "go to" students for your first questions before opening the discussion to the whole class. Your questions may review material covered in previous class, focus on the day's assignment, or illicit opinions. The names are changed every day until all students have an opportunity to be an expert.

What are the benefits?
      -Helps break the ice
      -Provides for one-on-one interaction in large classes
      -Encourages class preparation since students want to appear knowledgeable about       the material
      -Gives all students at least one chance to speak in front of the class
      -Helps you and the rest of the class learn names
      -Offers more active engagement for the whole class [top of page]
Collecting Colleagues
The December issue of The Teaching Professor had an interesting article entitled, "Collecting Colleagues for Teaching and Learning." The article encourages each of us to form a network of colleagues who can help us grow pedagogically. Suggestions for colleagues to "collect" are


1. A departmental colleague  
Someone who knows, loves, and understands the content. This person may help with lesson plans, sample problems, test questions, and ideas for engaging your students in classroom discussions.

2. A colleague from another department  
Teaching transcends disciplines. Finding someone from another discipline who likes to talk about teaching exposes you to new ideas, different approaches and policies that are not content-specific.

3. A good teacher  
You need someone in your network that is a "better" teacher than you are! Whether they are "better" because of more experience, more content knowledge, or more knowledge of research in pedagogy---you can learn from them. Maybe they can share a good article, a helpful book, or just offer some great advice.

4. A teacher from elsewhere  
Take advantage of list serves, blogs, or other electronic sources for connecting with a teacher from another university with whom you can share teaching discussions without interference from local issues, politics, and problems.

5. A teacher you can teach  
As many of us try to tell our students, if you really understand something you should be able to explain it to someone else. Sharing your expertise can help develop expertise.


For more of the details, read the entire article---remember, the Center provides you with an online subscription of The Teaching Professor! [top of page]
Group Work
There are numerous research studies to support the benefits of using collaborative groups. Some contend that students learn more, retain it longer, and are generally more satisfied with the learning experience. Successful group work is the result of careful planning by the instructor. It is NOT a substitute for lack of preparation.

Here are some tips to make it work.

1.  Make it sink or swim. Each member should be responsible to and dependent on all the others.
2.  Make it relevant. Group work should not be busywork assigned by an unprepared instructor. The group tasks should be tied to course objectives.
3.  Make it doable. Consider the skills and abilities of your students when creating group tasks. [top of page]
Midterm Reflections
Finishing those Mid-terms? Trying to decide what's working and what's not? Try your own midterm evaluation. 
The November, 2008 issue of The Teaching Professor had an interesting article by Barbara Mezeske entitled, "When to Begin the End: The role and use of summary in course design," that offered some tips for midterm summations. One of these is below.

Ask your students to reflect on the class thus far and create the following "concept" lists.
- List the concepts that you've learned.
- List the concepts that have been reinforced.
- List the concepts that have been challenged.

Students should write two or three concepts in each category. Collect the lists and collate them anonymously. During the next class meeting, spend 10 or 15 minutes assessing how the course has affected their learning. You can compare their responses to the goals and objectives of the course. It's a nice way to convey the idea that all courses should deepen existing knowledge, introduce new ideas, or challenge our preconceptions. Some courses do all three!

For more of the details, read the entire article---remember, the Center provides you with an online subscription of The Teaching Professor! [top of page]
Group Projects
In case you missed Debbie Johnson's March 20 workshop, "Creating and Implementing Successful Group Projects for Your Classes," here's an interesting tip. 

At the beginning of a group project have each member write a "first impression" paragraph of the other members in the group and submit to the instructor. These paragraphs are confidential and only read by the instructor.

About mid-way through a long project (or maybe at the end of a short project) have the students submit a "second impression" paragraph on each member.

After the project, return the paragraphs and have students compare their paragraphs. It's a nice lesson for emphasizing that first impressions are not always the lasting ones! [top of page]
Office Hours
As final exams get closer, our offices get busier. More and more students realize they need to visit with their professors. Here are some tips for making the most of your office hours taken from Teaching at Its Best: A research-based resource for college instructors, second edition by Linda B. Nilson.

Tip #1: Make the time productive.- Advise students how to prepare for a visit to your office.- Bring appropriate materials book, HW problems, papers, etc.
- May ask them to write out question or points as clearly as possible.
- Ask students to work HW problems as far as they can.
- If a grade is in question, ask students to bring a written justificationfor the change of grade.- Reserve the right to terminate or reschedule the office visit if student is not prepared.- Remind students that the purpose of office hours is NOT to get a condensed version of the class they missed OR for you to complete their HW. Tip #2: Make them feel comfortable.- Give them your undivided attention!
- Hold calls if possible, if not, keep them brief.
- If other students are waiting stay focused on the student in your office.- Let them know you appreciate their coming and you want them to feel welcome to come back! Tip #3: Know your limitations.- Students in serious emotional or academic trouble should be referred to the appropriate unit on campus counseling center, their advisor, tutoring labs, etc.[top of page]
Final Exams
The end of the semester puts added pressures on you and your students. Here are 3Rs that may help.

Reveal as much as you can about the format of final exams and/or final projects. Communicate whether these requirements will be cumulative or only cover recent material. The more detailed you can be, the fewer questions you will have.

Remind students early and often of the exam time and location. If a final paper or project is due during the week of finals, remind students to start early and make sure they understand where and when to submit this work. For papers, you may also want to remind them of the plagiarism guidelines!

Review course material and your policies. Offering a review session either in and/or out of class may reduce the demand for individual review sessions during your office hours. A review of your grading policies may offset questions about submitting late work or requests to complete work for extra credit as students become concerned about their grades. Make sure that your grading policies are clear and consistent before the end of semester rush. [top of page]
Study Skills
Here's a tip adapted from an article in the August/September 2009 issue of The Teaching Professor written by Sara J. Coffman at Purdue University entitled, "Teaching Strategies That Help Students Learn."

Sneak a few study skills into the first week of class!

1.Collect information about your students' expectations through email or group interviews. This will give you some important baseline information and will encourage your students to communicate with you throughout the semester.

2.Provide a suggested list of study techniques from students who've taken your course and earned an A. If you don't have such a list, give your own suggestions.

3.Offer time management advice. Let your students know how much time they should be spending on your class each day to maximize learning and to avoid cramming. [top of page]
5Rs for Student Engagement
Here's some advice adapted from an article in the August/September 2009 issue of The Teaching Professor written by Christy Price, Dalton State College, GA entitled, "Why Don't My Students Think I'm Groovy?" In this article Price shares her findings from a qualitative analysis of narratives provided by more than 100 Millennial learners.

5 Rs for engaging the Millennial
1. Relevance-Find ways to connect your content to the current culture. These students don't typically embrace, "learn for the sake of learning". Even the use of humor was perceived as making a connection.
2. Rationale-Tell them "why" when it comes to course policies and procedures. Millennials don't respond well to "because I said so"!
3. Relaxed- Allow informal interactions in class with you and other students. These students thrive on the less formal.
4. Rapport-Show that you are interested in them on a personal level. Students like to feel that you "listen" to them.
5. Research-based methods- Offer a variety of teaching methods. These students weren't opposed to lecture, just "lecture only". They are accustomed to constant engagement. Their attention shifts quickly. Keep them engaged by incorporating a variety of class activities. [top of page]
Responding to Student Questions
Questioning is a very important classroom component for you AND your students. As faculty, we often feel more comfortable asking than answering.How would your students reply to the following? Usually, sometimes, or seldom

1.I feel free to ask questions when I do not understand a point the instructor is making.

2.The instructor answers questions clearly and concisely.

3.The instructor is patient with students who ask questions.

Are you satisfied with the responses? Your reaction to students' questions can help set the tone for an engaged classroom. Don't overlook the potential of student questions for sparking discussion and student thinking! [top of page]
Too Much Participation
Too much class participation?
If you have a student who dominates your classroom discussions you may want to try these tips. 
  • Communicate your expectations for an effective discussion and teacher-student exchanges to the entire class. The earlier in the semester you do this--- the better!
  • Design classroom activities that require contributions from a variety of students: small group reporting, sharing examples, etc.
  • Impose a wait time ---at least ten to 15 seconds before anyone can respond to your question(s). This will allow more students to think through and formulate a response.
  • Vary your method for calling on students---raised hands, 3 rd person in every row, random selection (e.g., shuffle and draw index cards with students names).
  • If necessary, talk with the student privately and explain why too much participation from one student may inhibit the learning of another. You may want to encourage the student to ASK questions rather than answer them.
Using positive strategies, rather than rude and demeaning tactics, should resolve the over-participator problem and broaden participation in your classroom discussions.


Read more at:
http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-classroom-management/those-students-who-participate-too-much/[top of page]
Mid-Semester Assessment
As we hit the middle of the semester, you may be reevaluating your course to decide what's working and what's not. Here's a quick "midterm" for faculty! 

Start-Stop-Continue! Students are asked to take out a sheet of paper and given a few minutes at the beginning of class to anonymously respond to the following:

In order to better meet your individual learning style and improve your understanding of the course material

What should I START doing?
What should I STOP doing?
What should I CONTINUE to do?

This is a very quick way to get student feedback in time to make some changes before the end of the semester. I remind my students to be selfish "focus on your individual needs, not what you think is best for the rest of the class". You'll be surprised at some of the wonderful suggestions your students will provide and your students will appreciate the opportunity to contribute! [top of page]
Service-learning is a teaching strategy designed to enrich the learning experience by integrating instruction and reflection with meaningful community service.

Faculty from a variety of disciplines have used service experiences to facilitate better understanding of their course material. As you begin to plan for the spring semester, why not consider implementing a service-learning component in one of your classes?

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Class Discussion

Here's a tip for generating participation in a large class discussion adapted from an article in the November 2009 issue of The Teaching Professor written by Elayne Shapiro at the University of Portland entitled, "Could We Hear from Somebody Else, Please?"

1. Divide the class into groups and assign each group a section of the material to be discussed with specific questions to be addressed.

2. One group member begins answering the first question but is allowed to stop at any time. The next person in the group must pick up where the first member stopped. Again, the group member can say a little or a lot. All group members must contribute. They can modify or amplify what the previous person said, or they can move to another question. Discussion continues "traveling" within the group until all questions are answered.

This discussion method could be tailored for a variety of disciplines and might include discussing a case study, explaining an historical event, describing a concept, etc. [top of page]

Top 10 for Teachers
Here are some tips adapted from an article in the January 2010 issue of The Teaching Professor written by Grace Johnson, Marietta College, OH, entitled, " 100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do: Adapted for Teachers."

1. Do not let anyone enter the restaurant without a warm greeting. This holds true for your classroom. Make your students feel welcome.
2. Do not recite the specials too fast or robotically or dramatically. This should apply to your lectures.
3. Don't blame the chef, the busboy, the hostess or the weather. Just make it right. If a student has a problem, and you can't resolve it, direct them to someone who can.
4. Do not disappear. Be available for your students. Post office hours and keep them!

To read more of these tips, visit our online subscription of The Teaching Professor? Call the Center for login information. [top of page]
Improve Your Teaching
Here are some tips adapted from an article in the December 2009 issue of The Teaching Professor, titled, "Teachers Who Improved." The article describes a recent study that examined factors contributing to improved teaching performance. More than 200 faculty respondents identified the following as attributing to the increase in end-of-course ratings.

1. More active/practical learning - make your content relevant
2. Better teacher/student interactions - learn your students' names and talk with them
3. Making expectations for learning outcomes clearer - let your students know what is expected and keep your standards high
4. Being better prepared for class - time is valuable, don't waste a minute!
5. Revising the evaluation policies and procedures used to assess student work - align your assessment with course goals

To read more, visit our online subscription of The Teaching Professor? Call the Center for login information. [top of page]
Classroom Questions
Here are some tips adapted from the article in the December 2009 issue of The Teaching Professor, "Cool Calling: A Creative Way to Start Discussions." The article revisits a 1989 article about classroom questions.

Do you arrive in class prepared for content but unprepared with questions? Often our classroom questions surface as we make our way through the day's material but class preparation should include time spent on questions, not just content. Good questions should promote discussion, not just answers.

Once you have your questions, how should you ask? Try this
Ask your first question at the beginning of class, then 'call' on a student to think about an answer and ask a second student to back up the first one. Continue the normal opening class duties: taking attendance, making announcements, etc. --- giving the students you called on at least five minutes to think about an answer. Depending on time, you can have one or both students respond, and then solicit reactions from the rest of the class.

To read more, visit our online subscription of The Teaching Professor? Call the Center for login information. [top of page]
Student Engagement
Here's an idea from the article in the February 2010 issue of The Teaching Professor, "The Front Row: A small group feel in a large class", written by John Allison of The College of New Jersey.

In this article, a chemistry professor increased the student engagement in his classroom by rotating the students on the front row. Every Wednesday, he would announce the makeup of the front row for Friday's class. On Fridays, the front row students would engage in discussion, problem-solving, and board work with the professor while the rest of the class watched. Problems covered on Front Row Friday frequently appeared on a quiz or exam to make it clear that this was not a day off for the other rows.

The implementation of this format had a positive influence on both attention and attendance on Fridays. Student feedback on SOT instruments showed an increase in the categories of instructor concern and enthusiasm. [top of page]
Student Behavior
We are coming to that time in the semester when everyone starts to feel overloaded---both faculty and students. Students may become 'less agreeable' in the classroom and you may have less patience to deal with this.

In McKeachie's Teaching Tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (1999), McKeachie suggests, "before focusing on changing the student's behavior, take a few moments to look at what you are doing that might be related to the student's behavior. Interpersonal problems involve at least two people, and in many cases the difficulties are not one-sided." (p. 235).[top of page]

Course Design

Here's an idea excerpted from, "A Course Redesign that Contributed to Student Success", January 2009, The Teaching Professor.

As we begin developing our courses for next semester, here are some things to remember. (You still have time to incorporate some of these now!)

1. Provide a structure for the course that guides students in their active learning. Regardless of the course, students are responsible for their own learning---keep them engaged.

2. Provide sufficient time on task and enforce deadlines. Create and post a class schedule for assignments and tests.

3. Reward students for their efforts. You may consider including a get-it-right assignment. Students are allowed to repeat the assignment a number of times until an acceptable level is reached.

4. Provide regular assessment of progress. Keep your grades in Moodle and update often.

5. Accommodate diverse styles. Some students work better on their own, some work better in groups. Provide opportunities for both.

6. Stay in touch. Don't let students become invisible---no matter how hard they try! Use the email feature of Moodle to let students know that you notice when they miss a class or miss an assignment. Personal attention is a great motivator.

To read more, visit our online subscription of The Teaching Professor? Call the Center for login information. [top of page]
Often the best ideas for enhancing your teaching are offered by faculty outside your department. Take time to network with your interdisciplinary colleagues at one of the Center's upcoming events. [top of page]
Last Day of Class
The last day of class can be just as important as the first. Focusing on the 3 F's can benefit both you and your students.

1. Finals. Reduce anxiety by providing as much information as possible on the final exam -- multiple-choice, essay, comprehensive, etc. You may also want to provide study tips. Remind students of the day, time and location of the final as well as the weight of the exam in final grade calculations. Posting all this information on Moodle will save you time by decreasing the number of last-minute questions via email.

2. Feedback. We've given the SOTs but you may want to gather more specific information on the course. Ask students to take five minutes and respond to, "What has the course contributed to your understanding of _____?" You can fill-in the blank with the content area, a specific topic addressed in the class, reference to career or future plans, etc. Discussing the responses may allow you to promote an upcoming course, situate the course in a broader context or make final connections they may have missed.

3. Future. A great activity for the last day is to ask students to write a letter to future students addressing what it takes to be successful in the class. This is not only a good reflection activity, but also provides a great introduction that can be shared on the first day of your next class. [top of page]
Learning Names
Knowing and using students' names shows that you are interested in your students as individuals and helps to establish a more comfortable, less formal atmosphere in class. As Dale Carnegie famously said, "Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language." Learning the names of your students can seem like a daunting task, but it can be done. Here are a few tips from Carnegie Mellon.

1. Use name tents. Ask students to write their names in large letters on both sides of a folded 5 x 8 index card and to keep this card on their desks for the first few classes.

2. Annotate your class roster. When you meet the class for the first time, take a few extra seconds for each student to identify his or her most 1-2 outstanding physical features or other noticeable traits. Be sure to include ways of pronouncing names that are unfamiliar to you.

3. Use mnemonics. Associate a person's name with a physical feature. Often you can relate the name (or key words with similar sounds) to something more meaningful and concrete with visual images. For example, a tall, thin student named Creighton Rosental can be visualized carrying a large crate of roses on his head.

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To read more, visit http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/resources/studentnames.html
Preventing Plagiarism
Reference: Sterngold, A. (2004). Confronting plagiarism: How conventional teaching invites cyber-cheating. Change, May/June, 2004, 16-21.Excerpted from Designing Assignments to Minimize Cyber-Cheating, The Teaching Professor.

* Break up major research papers into smaller assignments
"Dividing a research assignment into a series of more manageable components forces students to work on the project over time instead of trying to write the entire paper at the last minute when they may be most tempted to plagiarize." (p. 18)

* Require students to write about course-specific topics
The advice here is to tie topics closely to course objectives and content. "I often require students to write research papers relating course topics to campus speakers or current news events." (pp. 18-19) The more course-specific the paper topic, the more difficult it is to find material that can be directly pasted into the paper.

* Choose some required source material for your students
Select major reference works in your field and sources you know well. Students are less likely to plagiarize if you have demonstrated your knowledge of the sources.

* Incorporate assignments into class discussions and tests
"I frequently call on students during class discussions to give examples from their research that relate to the day's topics." (p. 19) This practice encourages students to work more persistently on their papers at the same time it makes clear who is not working on their paper.* Meet with students to discuss their research

This reinforces the importance of the assignment and helps students develop the kind of comfort and familiarity with their topic and sources that ends up making them confident enough to rely on their own ideas and opinions.

* Require students to submit printouts of source materials
This all but ensures that students won't plagiarize from these sources. If it sounds cumbersome and daunting, Sterngold reports, "Reading over the students' article-packets is less tedious and time-consuming than you might fear if you assign research topics that interest you." (p. 20) [top of page]
Making the Most of Office Hours
Office hours provide prime time for one-on-one mentoring opportunities with your students. 

1. Be hospitable. This time is for students---make them feel welcome. Have a chair ready, put your cell phone away, and turn away from your computer.

2. Be helpful. Whether students come for advising, extra help with your course content or just to talk - be a good listener. Ask questions. Be prepared to direct students to helpful resources (e.g. students support services, library, and websites). For additional content help, consider loaning books from your personal library.

3. Be professional. Sharing your own educational and work experiences with your students can be insightful but remember to keep every conversation professional. You may want to jot down brief notes of your conversation to reference the next time you talk with the student. Reference: Walsh, M. (October, 2010). Making the Most of 2,700 Minutes. The Teaching Professor Newsletter, 24(8). Read more by visiting our online subscription of The Teaching Professor? Call the Center for login information. [top of page]
Make it Relevant


Demonstrating the relevance of your course content and activities can increase student interest and motivation and increase your SOTs! 

1. Share your learning outcomes for the course with your students in class discussions, not just on your syllabi. Let students know why the knowledge and skills identified in the learning outcomes are important to the course and to their future. 

2. Tie each assignment to the learning outcomes. Let students know what the assignment is designed to accomplish, how it will help them achieve the learning outcome(s) and what they will know or be able to do as a result of the assignment. 

3. Begin each class with “What, Why, and How” the day's discussion connects to the learning outcomes. Let students know what you are doing in the day's class, why you are doing it, and how it will be done. Students may be more likely to fully participate and engage in course activities if you share the logic of your course design. Recognizing the relevance of a course also contributes to higher student ratings on course evaluations.

Reference: Fox, J. (May, 2009). Establishing Relevance. The Teaching Professor Newsletter, 24(5).

Read more by visiting our online subscription of The Teaching Professor? Call the Center for login information. [top of page]
Keeping it Personal in Your Online Class
You don't have to lose the personal touch just because you teach an online course. Help your students get to know you by creating an instructor introduction for your course. This can be done as a video clip, audio clip, or in writing. Give your students a glimpse of your personality by delivering your introduction as you would say it in person. If you choose video or audio, you should write and practice your script beforehand.

Source: Tips for Letting Your Personality Shine When Teaching Online by Eileen Narozny in Online Education, July 7, 2010. To read more, visit http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/tips-for-letting-your-personality-shine-when-teaching-online/?c=FF&t=F100707a[top of page]
Good Habits for Better Teaching
Here are two things to consider:
1. Grade smarter, not just harder.
Offer concrete feedback on part of the assignment one page, one problem, etc. rather than the entire assignment. Challenge students to correct the remainder for the next submission. Providing critical comments with strengths provides guidance and encouragement.

2. Mix it up. Use a variety of presentation strategies (visual, aural, kinetic) in your delivery of the content. This allows you to reach the varied learning styles of your students and keeps you from doing the same thing over and over.

Reference: Torosyan, R. (May, 2009). Five Habits ---Easy but Often Neglected Practices That Improve Outcomes. The Teaching Professor Newsletter, 24(5).

Read more by visiting our online subscription of The Teaching Professor? Call the Center for login information. [top of page]
Electronic can be Exciting!
The Center's subscription to Online Classroom helps keep you informed on the newest and the best in online education. Here are two of ten tips discussed in the recent article, “10 Ways to Make e-Learning More Exciting,” by Hong Wang, PhD.

1. Recording lectures over your PowerPoint slides will add a personal touch and provide more information to help students learn.

2. Use audio podcasts to highlight important concepts or points in each chapter.

To read more, visit our Group subscription to OnLine Classroom. Call the Center for login information. [top of page]