Documentation:Guide to Teaching for New Faculty at UBC/Resource 5: First Day of Class Recommendations

From UBC Wiki
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Set the Environment

The first day of class can have a large influence on students’ perception of the entire course.

By the end of the first class, you want students to have a good sense of why the course is interesting and worthwhile, what kind of classroom environment you want, how the course will be conducted, why the particular teaching methods are being used, and what the students need to do to learn material and succeed in the course. It is also important to give students the sense that you respect them and would like all of them to succeed.

Establish Motivation

Provide an entry-level preview of the course material and explain why the course material is important & interesting.

Avoid jargon as much possible. Where applicable, make connections to:

  • Real world/everyday life
  • What students already know
  • What they will need to be successful in future studies or career
  • What students are interested in, link to current events

Personalize the Learning Experience

Welcome students to your class and make it clear that you are looking forward to working with them.

Introduce yourself, including describing your background and interests in connection to the subject:

  • Why you find it interesting and exciting for them to hear about the subject
  • How it applies to other things you do (research, consulting, every day life)
Note: Students—especially those majoring in the subject—say it is inspiring to hear about the instructor’s background (such as the kind of research they do) and how it is relevant to the course.

Introduce teaching team: If applicable, introduce TA’s and anyone else involved that students will be interacting with (could show pictures or have them come to class).

Find out who your learners are: Make an effort to find out who the students are and their expectations, motivations, and interests.

  • Ask them a series of questions about their majors, goals, and backgrounds (perhaps use clickers or a survey)
  • If appropriate, ask them to introduce themselves to other students they will be working with
Note: use introductions with caution. Some students say introductions make them uncomfortable if used as a general “icebreaker”, but it is appropriate to introduce themselves to group members with whom they will be working.

Establish Expectations

Best if also handed out and/or online, not just spoken

Describe overarching (course-level) learning goals; the big picture view emphasizing that you want them to learn and what your role is in supporting their learning.

Explain how the course will be conducted, what will happen in the class, your expectations for out-of-class work, and give an overview of the schedule and marking scheme. Describe (generally) how to succeed in your course. Express that you feel they can succeed if they put in the effort. Give advice on how to study.

Explain why you’re teaching the way you are teaching, and how the different components support their learning, especially important if you are teaching differently than most other courses are taught.

Give a general description of how assessments are used for both feedback and marks, leaving the details to be read on the course website or syllabus.

Highlight the important details (not all of the syllabus, detailed schedule, detailed learning goals, academic conduct, deadlines, rules). Don’t go into all the details during first class; give links to more details on the course if the syllabus is posted online.

Thank you to the Carl Wieman Science Initiative for sharing this resource.
Good Practices Avoid - Bad Practices
Visit classroom before first class to avoid technical problems
Start class on time - sending the message that you expect them to be on time
Tell students you think they can all succeed if they put in the effort (fine to say the course is challenging

as long as you also express that it is interesting/worthwhile and do-able with appropriate effort)

Don't tell students you expect some to fail

Telling students that previous students did not like the course and/or have found it extremely difficult

Try to give them an authentic experience as to what the classes will be like Don’t use teaching practices that are inconsistent with the way you will be teaching the rest of the time
Address academic conduct rather than academic misconduct in context throughout course (e.g. talk about plagiarism when you are giving a writing assignment) Don’t emphasize rules and penalties on the first day (sends message of distrust, and they’re not listening anyway)
Involve students during class (activities) Don't talk the entire time
End class on time with slide containing pertinent info - your name,office hours, contact info, website,homework, etc. Don't end class early