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General Guidelines for Effective Teaching

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Since teaching is a very personal activity, it is helpful to think about your personal communication strengths and your private vision of yourself as an instructor. Exchanging views on teaching and on different classroom strategies with other professors might provide you with a wealth of ideas to improve your effectiveness as a professor. The following are some general principles that should guide your thinking (Diamond, et al., 1988).

  1. Organize each class carefully
    • outline the lesson content
    • Distinguish clearly between main and subsidiary ideas, and plan to spend more class time on the former.
    • Point out the key ideas, definitions, concepts, principles in a lesson.
    • Signal transitions between pairs of a lesson.
    • Summarize after each section of a lecture.
    • Periodically review main ideas and facts.
    • Begin each lecture by connecting with the essence of the past lecture to maintain a unifying thread throughout the course coverage.
  2. Develop a healthy classroom climate
    • Establish a positive rapport with your students. Although learning/teaching can be difficult at times, classes should not be grim places.
    • Use the time before class to talk to your students; learn who they are. Be five minutes early!
    • Develop patience and empathize when your students have difficulty.
    • Help students develop confidence to ask questions and offer their ideas in class, assuring them that perfection is not expected during the learning process. At the same time, gently correct wrong responses. Above all, nobody should ridicule an answer.
    • Rather than preach to the class or individuals who do poorly on quizzes, exams or papers, explore with them how they can do better next time.
    • Avoid arguing in class with students about exam questions; instead, arrange to see them after the class. Announce this at the start of the year. Tell your students you will discuss exam questions only within 48 hours after you have returned the exam.
    • Be upbeat and encouraging. Smile during class; you will neither lose control nor lessen the seriousness of what you are teaching.
    • Appear human - even idiosyncratic, if that is what you are.
  3. Adopt a concerned and professional approach
    • Before the drop date, make an effort to meet with students who are not doing well in the class. Encourage them to make informed decisions about their future in the course.
    • Admit it when you don't know the answer to a question, rather than bluffing or brushing aside the question. Model the idea that learning is an ongoing quest for all of us and determine that either you or the students will research the issue before next class. Ask them to come back the next class for the answer. And be prepared.
    • Early in the semester, while there is still time to fine tune your teaching style, request and use informed student feedback about the course.
    • Ask students to leave their suggestions slips (with no names on the slips) at the end of any class to maintain continual improvement of your teaching of the course.
  4. Use resources
    • Drop into the CTLET (Centre for Teaching, Learning and Educational Technologies) and/or attend a faculty workshop. The Centre is always ready to discuss teaching issues and to assist faculty or TAs in any other way. All consultations are in strict confidence. For further information on the services offered by the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Educational Technologies, see the section under Professional Development.
    • Use your peers for ideas and suggestions. You’re not alone in this endeavour. Think about visiting the classroom of a colleague and sharing what works and what doesn’t. A number of Brock faculty also welcome visitors to their classrooms. Call the CTLET for a list of faculty who would be happy to have you visit their class.
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