Show All | Hide All
Teaching Tips for Faculty (including Syllabus Design)
The classroom environment can be a large factor in student engagement and achievement in your class. It is the responsibility of the faculty member to create an environment of respect, and trust, shared exploration, and excitement about learning. While enthusiasm alone will not produce a good outcome, lack of enthusiasm on the part of the instructor will almost certainly guarantee a poor result. Students, particularly first-year students, take their cues from their instructors. Model the behavior you want your students to adopt, be transparent about what you are doing and what you expect, explain your reasons, and reward them when they do as you hope.
Nothing is more discouraging than to give a first exam at the 5 or 7 week point of a term and discover that your students have not understood most of the course material. To avoid this situation, and to improve your teaching, student learning, and satisfaction with your course, you need to build mechanisms for providing ongoing feedback on student learning, for both you and your students, into your class.
One of the most difficult tasks of an instructor is effectively assessing student learning. Exams are the most common form of assessment for grading, but projects, papers, portfolios, presentations, and web productions are also used regularly. Effective assessment measures all aspects of desired student outcomes, including memorization of information, ability to synthesize information, ability to apply knowledge to new situations, mastery of other skills, and attitudes about the subject. Assessment will be most valid when it parallels the teaching approaches, and the desired masteries and proficiencies are transparent to the students.
Managing a class, particularly a large class, can be daunting. But organization, preparation, self-confidence, and true respect for the students goes a long way toward success in this area. Have a clear idea of what you expect, communicate this clearly to the students, both in the syllabus and in class. But be open to legitimate suggestions from the class – there may be issues you hadn’t considered. Calling aside disruptive students to ask for their cooperation, and to make plain that certain behaviors are unacceptable, can be effective. Don’t hesitate to ask others for advice!
George Mason University has a wealth of resources for instructors. The Center for Teaching and Faculty Excellence can help, or direct you to help, for most educational issues. The Copyright Center can help you prepare course packets. The Division of Instructional Technology (DoIT) can also assist with integrating technology into your teaching and learning practice.
All faculty want more time, to manage the many areas in which they are expected to operate. Good planning and structure can help control the amount of time spent on any single area. Clearly ordering your priorities can help. And keeping some portion of your week for yourself, disconnected from work, is invaluable. If you are not rested, calm, and focused, you will be less effective in all your activities.
Facilitating Student Learning
Identifying Course Goals and Learning Objectives
1. Tips for Writing Learning Objectives:
2. Example Language for Learning Objectives:
Why do college bookstores require course material so far ahead of the new semester?
It can take a great deal of time to locate enough of the texts that you want for your students. This process can include locating used books from wholesalers, buying them back from students at the end of the semester, finding instructional materials from the publisher that might be out of stock or processing individual course packet requests.
Out of Stock Materials:
Your college bookstore will not be aware of an out of stock book until an order is placed with the particular publisher. The earlier the bookstore gets your request, the more time it has to get the requested class materials.
Custom Published Materials:
If you decide to create custom course packages and need to get permission for copyrighted material, consider the time and cost involved. The policies, procedures, and cost for these copyright requests vary from one publisher to another. Please consult the copyright office homepage for more information at http://copyright.gmu.edu/.
How do bookstores decide how many of each course text to order?
Several criteria affecting this ordering involve:
What can I do to improve student satisfaction with the selected course materials even though they are expensive?
Textbooks are costly. Wherever possible, keep cost in mind as you select your course materials. Request and distinguish only those course materials (required, recommended, or optional) that you are actually going to use for your class and be careful about ordering your books and materials in bundles from the publisher. You will want to check the contents of these bundles first and compare the cost of the materials individually verses combined. Some may be a good cost deal for students while others will make students pay a bigger price for included materials that you may not use or want them to buy.
Unfortunately, research is showing that many students are not buying course materials that faculty select for their courses. Here are a few ways that you can encourage the use of selected class materials:
How can I find and contact the individual publisher(s) I need?
Our bookstore staff members can provide you with publisher information (e.g., email, fax, and phone number) and contact information for the local sales representative. This representative can inform you of new products or help you with ordering. Alternatively, you can choose to do an online search for your individual publisher.
What is a desk copy and how can I get one?
This is a book that is sent to the faculty member by the publisher for free. First, check with your department to see if they already have an extra copy for you to use. If there is no extra copy, contact the publisher for one. Some of the major publishers allow you to log onto their website and submit your request directly online. If the publisher is unable to send your required book(s) within 30 days, contact your bookstore. Note that these books are not meant for resale.
What are complimentary copies?
A complimentary book copy is one that you are examining to possibly use and order for your course. These copies can be requested only by faculty and ordered through the sales representative or by the publisher. These books are not meant for resale. If you decide that you do not want the book for your course you can send it back to the publisher, save it for a reference book, give it to a fellow faculty member, or donate it.
**Source: Above information adapted from the Instructional Resources for Faculty (IRFF), 2008, National Association of College Stores Inc.
You may choose to prepare a course packet that students can purchase. These packets often include required readings (e.g., book chapters or journal articles), lesson outlines or slides, or other supplementary materials. These materials must be prepared and submitted to Copyright Office on the Fairfax Campus at least eight weeks before the beginning of each semester at http://copyright.gmu.edu/.
If copyright permission is denied or not obtained, then you cannot include them in your course packet. There is, however, an exception. If you are teaching a course for the first time or using a journal article or book chapter for the first time, you might be able to qualify for “Fair Use.”
* “Fair Use” is determined by examining four factors:
All four factors must be examined before a “good faith” determination can be made regarding the fair use of a copyrighted work. For more information about “Fair Use” and other copyright policies, see http://copyright.gmu.edu/.
Faculty may place specialized materials on reserve with restricted loan periods for two hours, four hours, one day, three days, or seven days. Please note that materials which are on a two hour and four hour reserve cannot be checked out of the library. Reserve materials may include library owned articles, books, videotapes, CDs, audiocassettes, and personal copies of materials. All reserve items on the Fairfax campus are available at the Media/Reserve Desk on the FIRST FLOOR of the Johnson Center Library. Prince William and Arlington Campus reserves may be obtained at the Circulation Desk in their respective libraries. Patrons must present a valid University or picture ID card to check out reserve items with the exception of U.S. government publications.
Reserve Request forms are available online and at the circulation desks of the Fenwick, Johnson Center, Mercer Library/Prince William Campus, and the Arlington Campus libraries.
All copied materials placed on reserve except government publications are protected by U.S. Copyright Law (U.S.C. Title 17). Faculty members must read and sign a copyright liability statement for all materials placed on reserve.
For more information about Reserve Services, please contact the Johnson Center Library at 703-993-9043, Mercer Library at 703-993-8358, and Arlington Campus Library at 703-993-8188.
Please visit http://furbo.gmu.edu/OSCRweb/ for more information regarding Electronic Reserves, Course Reserve Guidelines, and Reserve Request online forms.
The general library website is library.gmu.edu. Photocopying machines are available in all University libraries.
Succeeding the First Week of Class
Be intentional with your self-presentation and approach - consider what characteristics you appreciated as a student. You will want to be authentic, prepared, and approachable.
Provide your expectations, in writing and orally – about student behavior, time that typically needs to spent outside class, types of achievement you will look for, the ways in which you will ask them to demonstrate their learning, any pet peeves.
Present information about what can students expect of you, in writing and orally – your goals, educational philosophy, when you will be available and best ways to communicate with you, what sorts of things you will not provide assistance with, how they should give you feedback, how they should approach you if they have questions about their grade, etc.
Give an overview of the class - what the course is about, why is it important to them and to others, what teaching approaches will you be using, what you expect they will learn from the class, what types of assignments and tests you prefer and why, etc.
Probe students’ backgrounds – are they where you anticipated they should be in terms of knowledge, skills, and other areas? What else might you want or need to know about them to increase your effectiveness as a teacher?
Ask about students’ expectations – what they have heard about the class, what they want to get out of the class, what concerns they might have about the class or the semester, etc.
Create a sense of community - to engage students with the course. It is useful to help them get to know at least one or two other people in the class, to encourage study groups, and to make them aware of their role in fostering a productive learning environment.
Finishing your Course on a High Note
Communicate your appreciation for what students have learned and accomplished. Point out the ways in which the course facilitated that learning.
Thank students for the opportunity to work with them; tell students how their feedback will be used to modify your teaching next semester.
Keep any thank you cards and emails from students in a file; these will be useful evidence later for your teaching portfolio.
Congratulate yourself on your successes in the classroom and reflect on what you have learned from things that did not go quite the way you expected. Use this learning to adjust your approach and inspire you for next semester.
Be patient with yourself. It can take a while to explore and cultivate your teaching persona; it is important to find the balance among confidence, authenticity, and creativity.