Academics
Areas of Study

Table of Contents

Course Design

(Re)Designing Your Course

Teaching with Technology

Syllabus Template and Guidelines

Teaching Different Types of Classes

Teaching the First Day of Class

Active Learning

Discussions

Responding to Disruptions in the Classroom

Office Hours

Classroom Observations


Our Teaching Support unit’s primary goal is to help make you an even more successful teacher. Many of our faculty are already doing an outstanding job of teaching their students, but even great teachers can struggle from time to time to achieve their best results. Teaching difficult concepts that many students regularly wrestle to understand; helping support individual students’ learning; and incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion into our curriculum and teaching are challenges that many instructors experience.

Plan & Design a Course

Course Design

For further information, please contact Lisa Fisher

  • Effective course design begins with understanding your students, deciding what you want them to learn; determining how you will measure student learning; and planning activities, assignments, and materials that support student learning. For all interactions with students, plan ahead by asking yourself:
    • Who are the students?
    • What do I want students to be able to do?
    • How will I measure students’ abilities?

    By asking yourself these questions at the onset of your course design process, you will be able to focus more concretely on learning outcomes, which has proven to increase student learning substantially instead of merely shoehorning large quantities of content into a semester worth of class meetings.

  • Enroll Course Design

(Re)Designing Your Course

For further information, please contact Lisa Fisher

  • Make an appointment with Instructional Design Service to (Re)Designing Your Course.

Teaching with Technology

Preparing to Teach

Syllabus Template and Guidelines

Teaching Different Types of Classes

  • One size does not fit all! Classes differ by size and format (e.g., discussion, lecture, online, or hybrid) and are divided along disciplinary lines. You must consider the unique characteristics of your class composition and tailor the course structure, assignments, and activities to best support student learning. Attention to these details will create a learning environment where students can successfully meet learning objectives.

Teaching the First Day of Class:

  1. What do students want to know about the course?
    • Learning goals
    • Teaching and learning strategies
    • Overview of content and readings
    • Assessment and grading policies
    • Important dates and deadlines
  2. What do students want to know about you as their instructor?
    • What to call you (Professor, Dr., first name?)
    • How you teach and how you expect students to learn
    • Why the subject is interesting to you

    You can provide this information through:

    • Examples that illustrate teaching strategies and ways of learning successfully in the class
    • Comments from students in previous classes
    • Personal history of your work in this subject
    • Examples showing how you apply the course content in your work or use it to solve problems
  3. What do you want to know about students?
    • Preferred name and pronunciation, interests, year, major
    • Relevant previous courses or prior knowledge
    • Reasons for taking the course
    • What students hope to learn in the course
    • Provide information on 3×5 cards or an online survey
      • Invite students who may need accommodations (students with disabilities or student-athletes, for example) to make necessary requests
    • Interview and introduce a classmate
    • Do an icebreaker activity
    • Complete an ungraded assignment or quiz to show what they already know
    • Write anonymous two-minute responses at the end of class. For example:
      • What’s the most important thing you learned today?
      • What questions do you have about the class?

Engaging Students

Active Learning

  • Active learning requires students to participate in class instead of sitting and listening quietly. Strategies include, but are not limited to, brief question-and-answer sessions, discussion integrated into the lecture, impromptu writing assignments, hands-on activities, and experiential learning events. As you think of integrating active learning strategies into your course, consider ways to set clear expectations, design effective evaluation strategies, and provide helpful feedback.

Discussion

  • Discussions can play a valuable role in lecture courses, seminars, quiz sections, labs, studios, and other settings. A well-planned discussion can encourage and stimulate student learning and add variety to your class. While “good” discussions can be a powerful tool for facilitating student learning, successful discussions rarely happen spontaneously. Preparing ahead of time will help you define a clear focus by establishing goals and student expectations for the discussion.

Responding to Disruptions in the Classroom

  • Generally, we recommend planning for three potential scenarios:
    • Brief disruptions (from one hour to a few hours) during which student and faculty access to campus and/or the internet may not be universal.
    • Longer disruptions (from one day to a few days) during which students and faculty will have access to the internet – perhaps after a brief period of adjustment. 
    • In all disruption scenarios, we recommend preparing at the beginning of the semester by taking these important steps to ensure you have up-to-date information and the tools needed to continue your course.
    • Communication
      • Clear communication at all levels is critical during a disruption. This includes communicating your plans and expectations at the beginning of the semester before a disruption occurs and during the disruption itself. We recommend the following:
        • Let students know how they’ll be updated in case of disruption in your syllabus
        • Let students know how class meetings will occur (e.g., via Zoom, viewing asynchronous materials, etc.) in the case of a short-term disruption
    • A place where students can easily access recordings, readings, materials, assignments, and assessments

Office Hours

While taking advantage of office hours to work on research or grading may sound appealing, not meeting with students can actually put you at a disadvantage. Once you have students visiting your office hours, you’re likely to learn from them. Use the time to solicit feedback about the course and instructional materials. Ask students what they like about the course and what confuses or challenges them. Students are more likely to be honest if you demonstrate a genuine interest in hearing what is working well and what needs improvement. 

  • Explain what office hours are on the first day of class, but remind students throughout the semester where and when they can find you. Post your hours and location on the course syllabus and consider publicizing office hours on Blackboard and/or in your email’s “signature” so that students see this information regularly.
  • Consider requiring students to meet with you early in the semester, especially if you have smaller classes. Once they surpass initial anxiety, students are likely to come on their own. While it’s wise to have students schedule these visits around a course assignment, a brief meeting to discuss their personal goals for the class can also be effective. Other required visits may include the following: 
    • Davis (1993) suggests that writing “see me about this during office hours” gets a 75% response rate. However, you can avoid making office hours punitive by centering the requested visit on both praise and constructive criticism.
    • Nilson (2010) suggests having students drop off or pick up assignments during office hours rather than during class time.
  • Consider alternative “office spaces:”
    • “Neutral spaces” may alleviate anxiety while meeting in a library provides space to model research practices.
    • Walk and talk. Requests for general information or clarification can be addressed “on the fly,” as you walk from one class to the next.
    • Supplement office hours with technology. Email, discussion boards, Twitter, or other online spaces “are most efficient when communications are brief and to the point and offer ‘easy answers to easy questions.’”

Classroom Observation

  • Learn more about your class’s teaching and learning dynamic while your course is in progress, focusing on areas of interest or concern.
  • A CTL Consultant will attend a live class session to observe and take note of instructor and student actions (e.g., What does student participation look like during class? What does teaching look like during class?).
  • After the observation, meet one-on-one with a CTL Consultant to debrief the experience and receive a memo summarizing emerging themes and strategies for improving student learning.

Contact Us

Center for Teaching and Learning

College Hall 204B

202-250-2405

(202) 651-5000

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