I have been writing about my experiences with teaching in the past, and how I’ve developed systems to streamline my teaching. Today, I’m focusing on seven teaching lessons that I have learned over the past years, that I’d like to share with you – whether you are a seasoned teacher or new faculty member:
- Not everyone is like me: When I was a student, I could easily read 40 pages of the coursebook in an hour. I almost always did all the reading assignments. It took me a few years as a professor to realize that not everybody is like me – regardless of possible learning challenges students may be facing.
- Every group is different: What works one semester with one group of students, may fail the next semester with a different group. When you teach in a master’s program where students come in from different universities, you may find that they are a very heterogeneous group. A course you developed in one country may not suit the needs of students in a different country. It takes a bit of time to get to know your group of students, and to find out how you can reach them.
- Provide material in different formats: In line with my first tip, I found that providing the same material but from different angles and in different formats can reach a wider group of students. I try to provide video material, reading material, case studies, practical applications and more to discuss the same topic from different points of view.
- Find the right balance between teaching and learning activities: I have gone from using my lecture hours to fill them with my talking most of the time, to a flipped approach where I would let the students do everything, to alternating lecturing and active learning activities. I’ve tried both a quick going back and forth between teaching and active learning activities, but have found that for the courses I teach, designated theory and exercise lectures seem to work best.
- Take e-learning lessons back to the in-person classroom: Remember all the fun tools we were playing with in the early days of the pandemic before pandemic fatigue set in? You can still use those tools in class to keep your students engaged. You can potentially still use the same tools as before (such as a mentimeter), but you can also quickly turn these activities into an in-person activity. You could turn an online mentimeter poll for example into a show of hands, or ask students to form groups at various corners of the classroom depending on their answer.
- Prepare everything before the start of the semester: If you can, prepare everything for the upcoming semester before the start of the semester. This approach won’t be possible when you are a new faculty member and get to teach new courses right from the start, but after a semester or two, try this approach. I like to develop my course material well in advance, and make all exams in one go (so that I can also see the balance between exam questions over various midterms).
- Explain your course design to your students: Without going into the weeds of pedagogical topics, it can be good to explain which methods you used to design your course to your students. I explain my students in the first lecture how the class is structured in terms of topics and modules, and how each module is built up with the 5E instructional model (engage, explore, explain, elaborate and evaluate). As such, students know what to expect, and why it is important they do the activities before class.
What have you learned from teaching over various semesters? What would be your best tips?