Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Teaching Tips

I was chatting with a good friend not too long ago about how I approach teaching. She was inquiring about how I straddle the line between being friendly, being seen as an authority, and establishing a beneficial, safe learning environment. In addition, she told me that I should consider writing a post giving some tips on what has worked for me, so here we go. I have had the opportunity to learn from some great teachers in my short educational career and I would have to credit them with teaching me how to teach.

I've been a teacher for just a few years, but I've had the opportunity to teach various courses (Public Speaking, Interpersonal Communication, PR Writing, PR Research), have worked on a few course designs, and got a teaching certificate during my master's. Though this does not mean I'm an expert by any stretch I have found several positive themes running through my teaching evaluations.

Here are just a few of the aspects of my teaching that have been successful for me:
1) Use inclusive language - when discussing the course, the work, lectures, etc as a whole, use inclusive language. It is not your class and they are not your students. Each of them is a part of what I describe as "our class" and "we" are learning.
2) Adapt to the class - this aspect can refer to an event going on in the news, on campus, a particular time of year (i.e. midterms), etc. Is there something distracting them? Are they upset? Let them talk about for a bit...it generally refocuses them for the rest of the class. This also works for concentrating on topics they are not understanding.
3) Ask them how life is going - I almost always start the class by asking how everyone is doing. I find out about what's going on with them. It can be anything from great news about an internship to someone announcing their engagement to their club sports team winning. I really care about them as individuals and this helps them realize that I want to know about them. I also share about what's going on in my life. For example, this past semester featured a good-natured hockey rivalry discussion. This is also a good time for them to announce events for their clubs & organizations.
4) Get a midterm assessment - this has been by far one of the best teaching techniques. Whether you do it formally or informally, it helps you to assess what's going well and what you might be able to change/adjust as you hit mid-semester. It also establishes that you care about how you are performing as a teacher and how the class is going for them. I've used an online survey with some similar questions to final evaluation as well as my own personal questions.

Do you have any tips to add?


LadyCoastie said...

Great post Kristin! This type of information is good for not only professors but also leaders of any kind. These tips will help me better develop relationships with my subordinates and coworkers.

ProfEnglish said...

Thanks! I'm glad the information can be helpful outside the academy.