I’ve been in the classroom for a long time. A long, long long, long, long [pause] long time. A recent e-mail asks if I have advice for someone new to college teaching. Here it is.
It is easy to over prepare for class because there’s so much content that should be covered. When first starting out, I prepared pages of detailed notes for each meeting of the class. Each night I would copy from my notes to the board, and I got through them all in every class. No one ever thought I was a good teacher. Lessons learned:
- Classes go better when you informally converse with the students and simply explain what you know.
- Take no notes to class. If you are talking along and need detail, have the students volunteer it.
- PowerPoint is the modern equivalent of copying pages of notes to the board. The only thing ever accomplished with PowerPoint is death (as in death of an audience via PowerPoint).
Early on, I talked all class, every class. I was afraid to cold call on students. It was lecture, lecture, lecture. Everything was focused on content. Students were bored, but I never noticed. Lessons learned:
- Education is not about what you know, nor about what students should know. It is about students learning what to do with what they know.
- Less is more. It is better to cover fewer topics really well, than lots of topics briefly, leaving them barely touched.
- If you talk less and they talk more, then there will be more learning going on. Instead of a single discussion for the entire class, I have students get in groups of four to discuss things, and two or three to work on things.
If there is a golden rule for a college teacher, it is this: Wear a smile. Prior to going into the classroom, put a warm smile on. Occasionally during the class period, check to see you still wear it.
by David Albrecht