Steven R. Van Hook, PhD
you've selected a textbook, scoured the publisher-supplied disc for usable
materials, prepared your detailed lesson plan and syllabus, crafted
your lecture notes and PowerPoint slides, and arrived early for your first
day of class.
In walk the students, glancing
at you appraisingly and expectantly. And it's on with the show. Now what?
Here are a few tried-and true
tips for those all-important first moments of a course setting the
classroom culture and expectations, that if done well could help surf you
through the term on solid footing.
1) Show respect for
the students. Recognize within them the seeds of greatness they possess.
2) Demonstrate your
dedication to the subject matter. As the old adage goes, "I can't
care what you know, until I know that you care."
3) Address learning
styles. Individual students have a variety of methods they learn
best by, and the more styles you bring to the room, the better you can accommodate
4) Personalize the
class. Learn the students' names using association tricks, and discover
which students can be called on in a pinch to stimulate discussions, and
which ones squirm in agony preferring to avoid too much attention.
5) Be accessible and
approachable. Put as much energy into the before- and after-class
interactions as the class session itself.
6) Ask engaging
questions regularly: "So, what do you think of that?" or
"Can you suggest other examples?" often stimulate student
7) Use PowerPoint
well. Not as something to read from the screen, but with graphics,
photos, video and audio clips that support the lecture materials.
8) Use contrasting
textbooks. For a course in global economics, I might use a dry standard
econ textbook, augmented with an informatively light book such as Randy
Epping's "A Beginner's Guide to the 21st Century Economy."
9) Deal with problems
(and problem students) while the issues are small. Here's an article on dealing
with disruptive students.
10) Seek mentors and
models to emulate, while developing your own unique approach to the
These are not necessarily the
top ten tips, but they are a useful if small sampling of tactics an
instructor should carefully pack each session in the effective teacher's
R. Van Hook
been an educator for colleges and
universities in the
United States and abroad for more than a
decade, teaching in traditional, online, and hybrid classrooms,
and developing more than a dozen different courses.
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