As a professor, I've experienced both extremes of the teaching evaluation continuum. I used to look for tricks and tactics and secrets and stories that would help improve how I taught.
Eventually I discovered that changing my perspective seemed to make the most difference. Here are some different things that helped change my perspective. If you're a new professor or a new teaching assistant and you're not doing as well as you like, I hope these ideas help you like they helped me.
1. "Imagine your brother, daughter, or younger self in the front row of your class." This will lead you to give your class sessions more context and more “So what?” It’s also help you cut loose a bit and give the class more punch, fun, and humor.
2. "Teach for where a student will be in 10 years." The guy who told me this is a legend. The idea is to try to get students to visualize their most successful self in 10 years. If we can teach to that ten-years-from-now person, we’ll be teaching them something they couldn’t just learn from an online class.
3. Education is a buffet; be something unique. Some courses are meaty and some are refreshing; some professors are fiery and others are more chill. You don't need to be like everyone else. By being your best genuine, earnest self, and you’ll be adding variety to their educational buffet.
4. Hold class previews for participation classes. Non-native English speakers and shy students have a hard time participating in class, but class previews help them. An hour before each class, I hold a class preview and we briefly discuss the day's discussion questions ahead of time. Anyone’s welcome to show up. [Read more]
5. Ask good students who the “must-take” teachers are. See if you can sit in on a couple of their class sessions (most are flattered and only 2 ever turned me down). Take notes about the good teaching ideas you can use.
6. “Don’t become a parody of yourself.” Good teachers slowly start to exaggerate the things they’re good at, and they eventually take it over the top and become a parody of themselves. Dramatic teachers will overfocus on drama. Entertaining teachers will overfocus on entertainment. Cool professors teachers will overfocus on coolness, and so on. [Read more]
7. Have a good syllabus. Here's an annotated example of one. It doesn't matter what the course is, there are a lot of ideas you can use here from how to help non-native speakers to how reduce test anxiety to how to bring out the best in students. [Read more and download a template]
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