Advice for Those New to College Teaching

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:

  1. Classes go better when you informally converse with the students and simply explain what you know.
  2. Take no notes to class.  If you are talking along and need detail, have the students volunteer it.
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Less is more.  It is better to cover fewer topics really well, than lots of topics briefly, leaving them barely touched.
  3. 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


Filed under Faculty issues

5 responses to “Advice for Those New to College Teaching

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Advice for Those New to College Teaching | Pondering the Classroom --

  2. Great post professor! These ideas will serve me well. Especially the smiling part.

  3. Great ideas! I wish someone had given me these when I started three years ago. I have learned some of these things in faculty meetings and such, but never put so succinctly in one place. I am an adjunct faculty member teaching accounting and other business courses at a career college in the Salt Lake City area.

    Our school is an accelerated program. Two days a week for four weeks, then we start a new class. Some subjects are two “mods” long such as Accounting 101 and a couple of others. Others, like the one I am teaching now Auditing II they just break up what would be covered in a quarter or semester into two classes. As you can imagine, as part time faculty and full time “real world” this can be a challenge sometimes. It gets very easy to rely on power points provided by the publisher.

    I often have only one or two students (one right now), and because of space constraints end up holding class in our library which is about the size of a living room. We do try to incorporate an online element as well. In one class, I did a crossword puzzle on our LMS platform as part of what was required of the students.

  4. Elvin Aghayev

    As an accounting student I have to fully agree with you.
    The best professor I have ever had, never even used PowerPoints.
    Each lecture was filled with interaction, discussions, provocative topics, and fun. Needless to say, I never missed a lecture. As much fun as it was, it was only Organizational Behaviour class. Unfortunately, accounting lectures usually are somewhere in between “boring to death” and “little better than the other guy”

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