Five Suggestions to Make the Academic Year Go Well, Fall 2003

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Don Cartwright, Geography
September 2003

1. Learn your students' names quickly. Research among undergraduates has revealed that this is a high priority for them. It also assists in creating an effective learning environment. Learning names may not be possible for instructors of very large classes, but the TAs should be encouraged to do so with their tutorial/lab groups.

2. Vary your presentation techniques. Wherever possible use photos, graphs or diagrams on overheads, flipcharts or handouts to generate discussion and interpretation. The discussion method maintains attention more than the lecture method alone. Note-taking efficiency also drops off dramatically from beginning to end of a session -- from 70 - 80% to 8 - 10%.

3. Return graded assignments as soon as possible. Students resent waiting a long time for feedback on their work. Make specific comments about what a student has done well, what needs to be improved and how to go about it. Positive comments should precede negative statements in your summary remarks.

4. Demonstrate enthusiasm for your discipline, for your area of that discipline and for the topic/theme of the day. Your genuine enthusiasm will be infectious among your students. "Student learning in lectures should provide motivation toward further learning." (Harry Murray, Department of Psychology, UWO.)

5. Provide an outline of your lecture and the key terms on the chalkboard or on an overhead, and refer to these from time to time throughout your presentation. This will help students to "stay tuned in", and will aid you in the pacing of your lecture, with the aim to go slower so that students can follow at a slower pace.

"Fifty percent of the variance between good and poor instructor-ratings is determined by four factors - enthusiasm, pacing, clarity and participation." (Harry Murray, Department of Psychology, UWO.)

Don Cartwright is the recipient of numerous teaching awards including the OCUFA Teaching Award, Western's Pleva Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the 3M Teaching Fellowship. He has been teaching at Western in the Department of Geography for 28 years.