Teaching strategies: Responding to Hurricane Florence (and other disasters)

by Julie Dodd

As a professor at the University of Florida, I’ve experienced several major hurricanes  during the academic term and know how such disasters can impact students and course plans.

Hurricane Florence imageI’d like to offer a few suggestions for instructors who are now dealing with the impact of Hurricane Florence — or for instructors who have to deal with other kinds of disasters that affect your students and your classes.

Keep up to date with your university’s policies regarding the emergency.

Universities typically are prompt in sending announcements to faculty about developments in response to a disaster – when the university is closed, what resources are available, etc.

If you’re an adjunct faculty member or a teaching assistant, you may not be receiving those announcements. Be sure to check the university’s website and ask a faculty member to keep you up to date with developments.

Realize that a major disaster, like Hurricane Florence, will affect students in many different ways — from emotional to financial.

Students in the path of a hurricane may have had their apartments or residence halls flooded and lost all their belongs, including laptops, textbooks and class materials.

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Teaching advice: Syllabus design and strategies for starting the school year

A view from the back of Carlton Auditorium during the orientation for UF’s new teaching assistants.

by Julie Dodd

Julie Dodd at UF TA orientation

In small classrooms or large auditoriums, I like to include ways for students to be active participants in class. Photo by Ashleigh Kathryn

“A Positive Start to Your Teaching: Your Syllabus and the First Week of Classes.”

That was my topic for the the Orientation for Graduate Teaching Assistants at the University of Florida.

More than 400 new TAs spent the day at the orientation that was designed to help them be better prepared to take on their new teaching duties when classes start next week.

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Attending new teacher orientation — maximizing your experience

by Julie Dodd

UF TA Handbook 2018-2019

That auditorium looks like C130 in UF’s Chemistry Lab Building — one of the 17 auditoriums I’ve taught in as a UF faculty member.

Thousands of teaching assistants across the country are getting ready to start a new academic year. [More than 136,000 teaching assistants were employed in the most recent count by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.]

Many of those teaching assistants are new and will be attending orientation sessions as part of their preparation.

For more than a dozen years, I’ve been a presenter at the University of Florida’s orientation for new teaching assistants, sponsored by the Graduate School and the Teacher Center. I really enjoy helping the more than 400 new TAs each year be better prepared for success in their teaching.

Here are five suggestions for how to maximize your experience as you attend a new teacher orientation. 

#1 – Consider the questions you have about teaching in general and your teaching assignment.

You’ll be more engaged in the sessions if you consider those sessions as a way of answering questions you have about teaching. So before going to the orientation, make a list of questions you have…and then add to your list as other questions occur to you as you participate in the orientation.

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Effective transitions between classroom activities

by Julie Dodd

As instructors, we’re often so focused on the content of the lesson that we don’t think about the importance of structuring effective transitions between different segments of the class.

students editing in computer lab

Having students work in pairs or small groups promotes active learning. But it’s important to plan your transition between activities to make good use of class time.

A reader of my blog who is a math teacher noted that lack of smooth transitions can lead to losing class time or even losing students’ attention for the rest of the class.

That comment motivated me to share some tips about structuring transitions between classroom activities.

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Tips for designing a college course

by Julie Dodd

Designing a course is one of the challenging and rewarding parts of teaching and can enable you to combine successful learning ideas and approaches from other instructors with your own teaching insights and skills.

Let me suggest four strategies for developing college courses and recommend readings that can help you dive deeper into thinking about instructional design.

#1 – Consider the big picture of your course

Before you select a course textbook or start inviting guest speakers, step back and consider the big picture of your course.

collage of book covers on teaching advice

Add these four books to your reading list to help you develop strategies for designing courses and improve your teaching.

Start with the goals of the course.

Those may be provided in the form of Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs), which are a list of what students should be able to do by the end of the course. Sometimes the goals are included in the college’s or department’s curriculum standards and sometimes stated in the syllabus that has been used previously for those teaching the course.

If you teach a course that is part of a sequence of courses, you can talk with an instructor of the course students take following the course you are teaching to see what the expectations are of students coming into that course after completing your course. (And those should align with the SLOs for both courses.)

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End-of-term debriefing on big-picture learning

by Julie Dodd

students taking exam in auditorium

At the end of the term, teachers (and students) can get caught up in rush of final assessments and grades. That’s important for officially completing the course, however, we can end the term thinking of the details of the course rather than the big-picture learning experience of our course.

Taking time in one of the last classes of the term for a reflection activity can help both us as teachers and our students have more of a sense of closure and accomplishment.

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Tips for choosing college textbooks for classes you teach

by Julie Dodd

An important part of your success as an instructor is based on the books and other materials you select for students to use as part of your course.

Good textbooks and online readings can help students be both better prepared for class and provide some of the instruction.

Barnes & Noble screen capture

Barnes & Noble and Follett are two of the companies that operate many college bookstores. As of March 2018, Barnes & Noble College operated bookstores on more than 780 campuses in the US.

Selecting a weak textbook or requiring too many textbooks can lead to students being overwhelmed which can be reflected in the students’ participation in class, academic performance, and the evaluations they give you at the end of the semester.

Let me offer ten tips for selecting textbooks and other course materials (i.e., online readings, textbook online resources).

Tip #1 – Determine the purpose of the textbook

Remember that the book is not the creator of the course – you are. The book (or other materials) should support your approach to the course. Finding a textbook that will include everything you’d want – and in the way you’d want it presented — probably will be impossible, unless you write the textbook yourself.  Look for materials that support what you are doing that provide a good background, examples and illustrations.  Consider the following questions when considering a textbook:

  • Does the book provide foundation information for the course?
  • Will the book provide assignments, exercises, labs, or case studies for student practice or assessment?
  • Does the book provide a point of view or different points of view that contribute to a broader understanding of issues involved in the course?

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