After seeing a few of the points on The Way of Improvement Leads Home, I went over to Inside Higher Ed to read their article on teaching lessons for professors. I’m always curious about what professor’s think of their students in the broader theme of education, so I really enjoyed checking out this side’s perspective — and big bonus. . . the author of this article is a HISTORY professor!
Here is a taste. . .
“5. Treat students as equals.
Of course, students are not our equals – we have more formal academic training and have leadership of the classroom – but we should treat hem as equals. They have their own set of unique talents and interests. Moreover, treating everyone with respect and kindness goes far in creating a successful classroom. In my history classes, for example, I tell them they are historians for the semester.
6. Teach subjects, not prerequisites.
Too often I think we get distracted by teaching the “required courses.” Everyone knows that 90 percent or more of students in a freshman biology or history class don’t want to be there. This translates into “dumbing down” the lessons more than necessary. In my history classes, for example, we talk about historiography (something I didn’t learn about until my last semester as a history undergraduate) from the first day of class. I want my students to have a true, deep exposure to the study of history.
7. Make full use of the CASE method.
Copy And Steal Everything (CASE) for educational purposes. Don’t reinvent the wheel where you don’t need to. Especially when you’re first teaching a lesson, borrow things others have done. Also, when I do create things, I make them available to others. In my case, I probably really still tend to reinvent the wheel too much, but when I do use resources other professors have made, I always look at several similar sources and combine the best parts of each and my own take to make something new. In other cases, especially on websites with all kinds of resources that are noted as being for anyone and everyone to use, sometimes I use it as-is. As educators, under fair use laws and more recently creative commons laws, we have all kinds of cool privileges to use the best resources for our students.
8. Have everything covered in the syllabus.
I tend to have a syllabus that is at least six to seven solid pages of text. Much of this is “common sense.” But given the nature of colleges and universities today and the nature of students (especially the “classroom lawyers”), it is helpful to carefully articulate all expectations, rules, and any exceptions. I have a “master syllabus” on my computer that I will add things to during the semester so the syllabus will be better for the next time. A detailed syllabus can also save time and stress, as students can consult the syllabus for course information.
9. Challenge students beyond their comfort zone.
I have found through various experimentation that students actually try harder, do more work, come to class prepared, and make higher grades if the course is “hard.” When the assignments are too easy, students slack off and fall further and further behind. Students will rise to the challenge. They secretly want to be challenged. For example, in a student success course, students are much more likely to complete and do so with care an essay requiring two to three pages compared to a worksheet/mini-project. In a history class, instead of in-class exams, I give longer take-home exams that require more thought and time. Students perform better because they know it is going to be harder, they know I have high expectations, and they enjoy the challenge. It’s for sure something different. Always go ahead and go with what is harder: If it turns out to truly be too hard, back off a bit and offer more help and guidance. As long as the focus is on learning, everything will be fine.”