College Teaching Tips…

My philosophy professor Pictures, Images and Photos

First of all, I don’t claim to be an expert — but, I recently realized that I’m in my 10th year teaching college… I have a Ph.D. in Philosophy (I still love writing that… ), and I’ve taught at a range of colleges from fancy pants private schools to community colleges — so, I have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t.

Here’s a quick list of hints, tips and observations about how to make your classroom run more smoothly — and, thus give you time for other fun stuff like cooking, travel, drinking coffee with your BF, writing a blog or whatever…. (wait, that’s me, not you… fill in the above with stuff like “research” and “service”, “a romantic life” and “sleep”…).

In no particular order, except what’s coming to mind as I write:

  • Assume about 40% of your class will read about 50% of the material.
  • Use your college’s course management program to keep  your gradebook.  This reduces the “what’s my grade” questions significantly.
  • Use your college’s course management program to do on-line reading quizzes.
  • Keep your syllabus SIMPLE.  Tell them what they need to do to get their B, then when they ask tell them it’s in the syllabus.
  • Don’t answer questions that are covered in your syllabus.
  • Have an on-line discussion forum so the know-it-all students can answer the stupid questions from the students who can’t manage to read the syllabus.
  • Use PowerPoint as a basic reference tool in the classroom, but don’t put the whole lecture into PowerPoint unless you don’t want them to come to class.
  • Write important assignments etc.. on the board in the same place every class meeting.
  • Use your course management program to store copies of handouts etc.  DO NOT bring them to class more than once.
  • Use your office door as a means of communicating with your students or for distributing material you don’t want to put on-line.
  • Use your college’s tutoring services, take advantage of their efforts to increase retention by using in class tutors etc.
  • If your syllabus bores you, change it.  It’s all about you after all…right?
  • Use a sign-in sheet to take attendance — I pull my class list into an excell file, then add grid lines — this lets you quickly record attendance.  I put several days worth of attendance on one sheet then tally up the missed classes, so they can keep track of it as it’s passed around in class.
  • Realize that not all of your students are like you, they don’t all NEED an A.  This was a toughie for me…
  • If you have lots of small assignments, drop one per semester.  This will keep you from having to do lots of stupid make-up quizzes.
  • Give extra-credit worth one of your small assignments — I give them credit for going to campus extra-curricular activities, provided they write me a paper about it.  I collect them at the end, grade them quickly and it’s no hassle.
  • If you assign writing, do a grading matrix — there are plenty of examples on-line — find one that works and modify it.  This cuts way down on questions about grades.

Generally, remember that your students want to get in and out of your class with a minimum of mystery about how they’re going to earn their grade.  If you are clear about your grading policies, they’ll have fewer questions and you’ll have fewer e-mails to answer.

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