Setting Positive Tone: Top 10 List

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Setting Positive Tone: Top 10 List

  1. 1. Top Ten Ways to Set a Positive Tone in your Course 1. Expect that teaching a large lecture class will be time consumingbut realize that it’s a huge opportunity to reach many individuals and send them off with a sense for the value of your subject. Your attitude and demeanor will have as much to do with your success as any other single factor. Take the time needed to do your homework (e.g., be fully prepared) and always treat students with respect. 2. Assume that all students in the class are capableand motivated, but do not assume they are necessarily motivated to learn your subject. Do your best to show students why you’re excited about the subject and to facilitate the level of learning that individual students want.But don’t force anyone to do the work needed to get an A. 3. Always realize and be respectful of the fact that most students are extremely busy. Your class is likely only a small portion of what’s on their plate. So, plan the total workload of your course accordingly and within the University’s workload guidelines. (http://www.policy.umn.edu/Policies/Education/Education/STUDENTWORK.html) 4. Write a comprehensive syllabus and do exactly what you say you will do. Do not make changes in expectations, exam times, grading policies, etc. Such changes may make some students happy, but others will feel that they could have managed their time differently had they known that the changes were coming. They will feel that they have been placed at a disadvantage. (http://www.policy.umn.edu/Policies/Education/Education/SYLLABUSREQUIREMENTS.html) 5. If you’re teaching a course with prerequisites (e.g., the second semester of a two-part service course), know what’s contained in the prerequisites. Do not go beyond the knowledge that students are expected to have and consider carefully whether or not some quick review might be necessary.Students will appreciate your sensitivity to this. 6. The classroom should be a safe place. Never embarrass students in front of the class (or elsewhere), and respect some students’ preference for anonymity. (Something I would have in mind, but maybe not commit to print:Avoid harsh responses to student contributions. This is hard to do, but try to find something helpful in what they have offered without reinforcing misconception or incorrect knowledge.) 7. Carefully proof your exams. Errors are a distraction and will end up causing student frustration and costing you time. Return exam results as soon as possible. Post answer keys and grade distributions so students know where they stand. Do this promptly. Explain your grading system. Fairness and transparency are key. 8. Tests should be at a level that makes students think and apply their knowledge, but students should not be required to prove that they’re a genius in one hour, under pressure,crammed in a room full of other students. Don’t assume that students understand the meaning of a curve. A 55 on an exam is demoralizing, even if it is later labeled a B. 9. Realize that if a student wants to discuss his/her grades with you, that means that they care about your class. Grading is part of ourbusiness, and students have a right to discuss their performance with you. Don’t subconsciously classify them as “grade grubbers”. 10. If you have TAs, be sure to instill your attitude in them. TAs are often the front line in your interface with students and they are inexperienced. Moreover, many have had bad experiences themselves and may subconsciously try to emulate those responsible. If TAs are grading work, give them careful instructions and create some kind of oversight and inter-rater reliability mechanism. Realize that students’ interaction with TAs can have a large impact on their perception of your course.

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