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Advice for New Instructors
Every student deserves to have an instructor with at least a minimum ability to teach.
This page provides some advice and links to additional resources that may be helpful
for those instructors with little training in pedagogy.
While most new instructors are naturally interested primarily in the nuts and bolts
of teaching (how do I actually DO this?), it is worth taking just a little time to
consider the big picture as well. What does it mean to be an effective teacher and
how can you ensure that you are building good habits from the beginning?
Effective Teaching: One model that may be useful for new teachers is to consider the types of attitudes,
skills and knowledge that effective teachers need.
Anyone who has been asked to teach a college class likely has sufficient knowledge
of their disciplinary content already but good teachers also need to know something about pedagogy, i.e., teaching methods and theories. Understanding the context in which you are teaching (is it a big or small class? required or elective? who
are your students?) helps you determine which pedagogical approaches are most appropriate.
The overlapping circles here indicate that to be an effective teacher, one really
needs all three types of knowledge. On the skills side, being well-organized and able to communicate well are likely not surprising to see here; instructors may be less likely to think
about the importance of interpersonal skills but the relationships you develop with students can have a huge impact in
how much they learn. Again, an effective teacher needs ALL of these skills. Part of
building good relationships is having empathy, particularly when students lives are quite different from the instructor's. Effective
teachers also approach the classroom with an open mind, both in terms of being receptive to what students bring to the classroom and being
open to changing their own thoughts and behaviors. Finally, the best teachers are student-centered, which includes a belief that teaching is about helping students learn, not just delivering
information; teaching is something you do FOR students, not TO them.
A Learning Classroom: Another model that may be useful is to consider the components of an effective classroom,
that is, one where all students are most likely to learn at deep levels:
Similar to the Venn diagram above, knowledge is key here: it provides the foundation
for everything else. The four pillars represent principles that underlie how an effective
course is taught, all the materials and activities that the teacher creates.
These pillars are connected by three things that the teacher does or provides for
And all of this brought together by (and helps to build) the rapport that the instructor establishes with and among the students; again, relationships
can have a huge impact on student learning. In the best classrooms, none of these
individual pieces stands alone but they build on and build toward each other.
In addition to the resources embedded above, the following links may be helpful to
those just getting started in the classroom: