Author: Dr. Heather Smith (Director, Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, Professor, International Studies)
These ‘quick tips’ are based on personal experience. Everybody you talk to can provide you with insights based on experience. It would be possible to provide ‘tips’ for just about any scenario, but I have provided just a few.
In the classroom
• Leave the trials of the day behind you: Students don’t deserve to have to deal with the trials and tribulations of your day. When you enter the classroom, try whenever possible to leave the day behind.
• Smile: This helps with leaving the day behind and setting the tone for the class.
• Arrive a few minutes early: This too can work well in developing a rapport with the students and gives them a moment or two to ask questions if needed.
• Use your intuition: If you are running into problems or want a sense of how the class is going, take a mental step back and ‘get a feel’ for the class. This can sometimes help you to understand the obstacles facing some of the students or obstacles facing you when it comes to getting your point across. If you want more concrete feedback use some of the evaluation techniques discussed in other sections of the manual.
• Try to enjoy the experience: Teaching and learning (and we as instructors do both in the classroom) should be an enjoyable experience.
• Try to be as clear as possible in the assignments. Remember that just because we think a task is clear doesn’t mean that the student understands the task at hand. This said, sometimes students want certainty. In some disciplines you can’t provide the ‘one and only correct answer’ and so the task becomes trying to get the students comfortable with that lack of certainty.
• Be as transparent as possible in your grading. Lots of faculty members use rubrics as a means by which to ensure the students understand the grade breakdown.
• Let your students know when you will return their assignments – this again provides some clarity for the students.
• If you have concerns about a student challenges a grade, talk to your department chair or a colleague about how they have dealt with these kinds of matters and also note that there is a specific grade appeal process described in the UNBC academic calendar.
• Try not to grade in red pen – it sends negative messages (it’s true)
• Having a problem? Respect confidentiality, but also understand that you can talk to your colleagues or department chair. Find a mentor or teaching buddy…we often do not talk about our teaching. Yet, there is so much to learn from the experience. We should all have someone to talk to about our creative assignments or bad days. Colleagues and mentors provide support and insight.
• Always remember that as an instructor you can potentially have a profound impact on your students. Don’t give up on the student who appears difficult because they can be your program’s next superstar. Engage the quiet student before or after class because you may find out that they are simply shy.
• Be compassionate. This may seem odd to some. Indeed there are a multitude of teaching styles and philosophies but at the centre of my vision of teaching and learning is compassion. It is not always easy and you might run the risk of being taken advantage of but there are also great benefits associated with compassion.
• Engage in teaching as learning. There are some great resources available that will inspire you to think in creative and innovative ways. Start with the website for UNBC’s Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (http://www.unbc.ca/ctlt/). You can also search the internet for centres of teaching and learning across Canada. There is a host of information out there! And of course, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at Heather.Smith@unbc.ca
GOOD LUCK AND HAVE FUN