5 New Year’s resolutions for college instructors

by Julie Dodd

As you start a new term as a teacher, you should be considering what your goals are for this new term.

Let me offer a few suggestions:

#1 – Don’t set too many goals for yourself.

If you are getting ready to teach a course you’ve taught before, you’ve probably identified a number of areas that could improved. You want to include a group project. You want to develop your own test questions instead of relying exclusively on the test bank provided with the textbook. You want to include more relevant video clips. You want to update some of the examples you use in class.

All of those can be worthy goals, but you need to consider the amount of time that is involved in each of those improvements.

For example, including a successful group project is much more than simply adjusting the students’ grades to incorporate that assignment. You will need to read about structuring group projects and then make additional small-stakes assignments that lead toward the final group project. You’ll need to include class activities to build group teamwork skills. [Read a previous post about strategies for designing group projects. ]

group project critique

A critique session with the instructor, a subject area expert and classmates is part of the group project experience for Morgan Yacoe’s Art, Body, Health: Visual Arts and Healthcare Collaboration course at the University of Florida.

You want to make improvements to your teaching, but don’t take on so many goals that either you are overwhelmed or you don’t do a good job in what you set out to improve.

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Advice for new teaching assistants

by Julie Dodd

jou3109 teaching team

Rich Shumate (on far right) was my lecture assistant for Multimedia Writing. The photo is of the lab instructors for the course.

When Rich Shumate and I met for lunch to celebrate him joining the faculty at Western Kentucky University, one of our topics of conversation was teaching.

As my lecture assistant during his doctoral program, Rich and I had literally hundreds of conversations about teaching, as we planned classes, discussed individual student situations, developed assignments and exams for the 200+ students in Multimedia Writing, and worked with the lab instructors for the course.

Knowing that I was going to be speaking at the University of Florida’s Orientation for Teaching Assistants, I asked Rich what advice he would give new teaching assistants. Here’s the combination of Rich’s advice along with my comments.

Shumate: Always be prepared for class. Don’t just go in and wing it. Your teaching should be planned.

Dodd: Sometimes those who are new to teaching think about professors they had who seemed to spontaneous in their teaching and think that they can be spontaneous, too. But most of the discussions that seemed to be spur of the moment were created by the professor’s questions or objectives for that day’s class. Some really great teaching and learning can happen that isn’t planned in advance, but most good teaching – that leads to students accomplishing the goals of the course – is based on planning and preparation.

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