There’s an old saying, “Begin as you wish to continue.” I’m not sure who said it first but it definitely applies to teaching. Create the positive experience you envision for your students and for yourself by paying special attention to how you begin in these three areas:
Roles & Behavioral Expectations: You’re the professor – what does that mean in your classroom? Is your role to facilitate and guide or to design and dictate? Perhaps it’s a little of both…? Does your role change as the semester progresses or during different assignments? Do you encourage diversity of views or are you immersing students into needed and rigid foundational knowledge? Can your students question you? Call you by your first name? Do you want a more formal or informal tone in your classroom? Whatever your expectations in each of these areas, BE SURE that you communicate them early and often to your students. Don’t assume that they know what you want and expect from them.
Learning & Rigor: You expect your students to work hard – how do you want them to do this? Is your class rigorous because you assign a lot of work or because you expect your students to think at a higher level such as evaluation or creation? Do you expect them to form their own supported views of course concepts? Do you approve of students helping each other to learn? Be sure to communicate both the PROCESSES and the OUTCOMES you want students to achieve in your class. Tell them before, during, and after each learning activity and assignment.
Purpose & Goals: You believe what you’re teaching is important – why should your students agree? Identify the goals of your course from day one. Be sure to convey the purpose and benefit of obtaining these goals in your students’ education, career, and post-graduation life. Refer back to these benefits and goals often over the course of the semester.
May you begin an effective, engaging, and successive semester and continue you on in the same fashion.
All the best for Fall 2012,
P.S. Student Engagement is a worksheet that provides a list of roles you can use to help students form effective small groups and some thoughts about levels of student engagement for you to consider.