Advice for new teaching assistants — My presentation to TAs at the University of Florida

by Julie Dodd

Gator clockThe clock is ticking as we approach the start of the academic year at the University of Florida and at colleges and universities across the country.

Today, I made a presentation about teaching at UF’s orientation for the more than 400 new teaching assistants that will be teaching labs, classes, and discussion groups this year.

My topic was “A Positive Start to Your Teaching: Your First Week of Class and Your Syllabus.”

Click to download my presentation slides — ta_orientation_2015_presentation_dodd

Click to download the handout with links to UF resources — dodd_ta_handout_2015_with_links

The Graduate School and the Teaching Center provide a valuable workshop for the new teaching assistants, most of whom have not taught before. Thanks to Dr. Paul Duncan, Senior Associate Dean of the Graduate School, and Dr. Winifred Cooke, Teaching Center Director, for their leadership in providing the workshop and other resources to support graduate student teaching assistants.

For more resources about teaching, check the resources available on this blog and follow me on Twitter — @profdodd

Best wishes for a good start to your school year.

Motivating college students — recognizing learning styles and role of intrinsic & extrinsic motivation

by Jung Won Chun
Ph.D. student, university of Florida


Jung Won Chun

Motivating students is not easy but is one of the most fundamental and important issue in teaching. If students lose their motivation to learn and engage with you as a teacher, they not only aren’t gaining as much as they could from your class but they could become academic discipline problems.

So, the key question is: “How can we motivate students?”

To answer this question, we need to understand different types of motivations. Here are two types of motivation:

Extrinsic motivation

  • Goal-driven: “I need a B to get into law school.”
  • Rewards: “I can earn extra credit if I do well on today’s quiz.”
  • Pressure to perform: “If I flunk this course, I will lose my scholarship.
  • Competition: “I should do a better performance to win the first prize in this project.”
  • Achievement: “I want to earn A for this course.”

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5 tips for preparing your faculty job application materials

by Julie Dodd

The last assignment for Mass Communication Teaching (MMC 6930) is to develop an online teaching portfolio.

Most of the students in the course typically are at least a year away from being on the job market, but the process of preparing job application materials helps them be more prepared to enter the job market — both by having materials developed and by realizing now what they should be working on to be more competitive when they do apply for faculty jobs.

Dr. Karen Kelsky has a helpful website with faculty job advice — “The Quick and Relatively Painless Guide to Your Academic Job Search” (2014)

Here are five tips for finalizing your job application materials:

 Tip #1 – Embed your name on your documents – Any documents posted online, such as your PPT slides or syllabus, should include your name as a header/footer. That’s not a requirement for our assignment but advice for “best practices.” That helps you get credit for your work when it may be used by others – such as someone who might use your PPT slides in their own teaching.

Tip #2 – Name your digital files – In naming files, include your name and use all lower case and no spaces.
NO: Teaching Philosophy.pdf
YES: garcia_teaching_philosophy.pdf

Tip #3 – Be consistent with font and type size – When preparing documents, we sometimes copy/paste materials from different files. But you don’t want your final document to look like it was copy/pasted. So when you’ve completed the document, select all and then set the font and point size.

Tip #4 – Carefully proofread your work – Be sure to proofread your work. The impact of a well-written cover letter or vitae is diminished by grammatical or spelling errors. Read your writing aloud. Have a trusted colleague or friend read your work.

Tip #5 – Test digital files and links – Be sure you have tested links in digital files and have made sure your digital files open. (If you are creating your vitae in InDesign, for example, you should save the file as a PDF to make it easier for those receiving the file to open it.)

Academic dishonesty in college classes — Pro-active and reactive efforts for teachers

by Julie Dodd

uf_conductAcademic dishonesty.

Every college instructor is concerned about that issue.

We want to evaluate each of our students on his/her own work. We want students developing standards of ethical behavior to carry forward into their professional and personal lives.

What can we do to promote academic honesty? And what can we do if we discover academic dishonesty?

Strategy #1 – Determine what your educational institution has in place to help you as an instructor.

At the University of Florida, the Dean of Students Office provides that support.

UF students are required to sign the Student Honor Code that lists and explains a range of inappropriate academic behavior, including plagiarism and unauthorized collaboration.

UF has an established process for addressing honor code violations. The guidelines are very clear that the instructor must contact the Dean of Students Office to report any academic dishonesty issue. The Dean of Students Office provides a form for reporting violations and has a Student Hearing Committee and review process for a student who has more than one violation.
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How to handle distractions, disruptions and discipline issues in the college classroom

by Steven Gallo
University of Florida Master’s student

Steven Gallo

Steven Gallo

It’s a topic that many teachers think they’re prepared for, but it’s easy to get caught off guard when confronted with a discipline problem or some other disruption in the classroom. Just like a lesson plan or a presentation, it’s important for teachers to rehearse and prepare for disciplinary situations so that we don’t feel prepared and don’t respond well when problems arise.

Let’s take a look at a few common scenarios that teachers may encounter and the strategies we could employ for each.

Students who argue about grades

There will almost always be a student each semester who has concerns about a grade(s) and who will want to speak with you about it. A situation like this could potentially evolve into a disciplinary matter, but if handled correctly, it can be a “teachable moment.”

Here are a few strategies to consider:

  1. Make sure your syllabus outlines the expectations for when grades can be discussed (e.g. must be during office hours and within a week of receiving the assignment grade, etc.)
  2. Review the assignment expectations and/or grading rubric with the student
  3. See if the student understands your written feedback
  4. Identify areas for improvement so the student knows what to work on going forward
  5. Wait to make any decisions about changing a grade until after meeting with the student

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Student projects: 3 tips to improve directions and grading criteria

by Julie Dodd

In Mass Communication Teaching, the students are developing materials for an undergraduate communications course. Those materials include:

  • Course proposal – Updating the proposal that you wrote at the beginning of this project.
  • Syllabus – This is the version of the syllabus that you would provide your students. Be sure to follow UF’s guidelines and our discussion of best practices for the content. The syllabus should include a timeline of each class meeting, with the topic for that class, any readings or other homework, due dates for major assignments, and dates for exams.
  • Class-by-class listing – For each class meeting, you need a brief explanation: objectives for the class and class activities (i.e., you presenting, minute paper, pair/share activity, small group work, student presentations, case study analysis, etc.). I would expect to see a variety of appropriate teaching and learning approaches.
  • Sample lesson plan – For the equivalent of two hours of instruction, develop a lesson plan. The plan should include all needed materials — readings, case studies, presentation slides, and your presentation notes for yourself. This should be a class where you are guiding the instruction and not a class with guest speakers or student presentations.
  • Assessment tool – This should be a major evaluation for the course — a major project or a major exam. For the major project, include the directions (with timeline that indicates small-stakes grades) and the grading rubric. For an exam, include the exam and the grading criteria (which could be an answer key and rubric for essay answers).

The class recently submitted the draft of their assessment tools. They could either develop an exam and answer key or a major project with grading rubric. Based on the courses they are developing, they all decided to create a project and rubric.

Here’s feedback that I provided on the project and rubric. Some of these suggestions might be useful as you are evaluating your teaching materials:

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Creating undergraduate course materials to demonstrate best practices

by Julie Dodd

The assignment to create materials for an undergraduate communications course gives you the opportunity to plan a course that you would like to teach (or that you already teach and would like to improve) and to demonstrate best practices for teaching and learning.

You are drawing from your own experience as teaching assistants and from our work this semester, including readings such as “McKeachie’s Teaching Tips,” “Who Gets to Graduate?” and “Rebooting the Academy.”

You are designing your course as if you were teaching it at UF during Fall Semester 2015. You are keeping the various UF calendar dates in mind and are following UF’s guidelines for syllabi. [For example, Ligia Cervera’s teaching presentation on working with students with learning disabilities was an excellent reminder of how important it is to include in your syllabus information on UF resources.]

An important component of the syllabus is the timeline. You list every class meeting and indicate the topic for each class (not just a chapter number), any assignments or quiz/test for that date, and any assigned readings.

[You’ve submitted a draft of the syllabus and we did a critique in class.]

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