Professional Development Module:
Getting Started—Resources for the New College Instructor

By Diane Starke, El Paso Community College

Research has shown that the first day of class is very important and that the first three weeks of the semester are critical for retention of students. This module is a collection of annotated websites with helpful tips and suggestions to help the new college instructor get started on the right foot. A portion of the material deals with the first three weeks of the semester. The remaining sections are tips about how to motivate students and suggestions about how to deliver effective instruction.

Key Concepts:

Section 1: Getting Started
“101 Things You Can Do the First Three Weeks of Class” is an excellent resource compiled by Joyce T. Povlacs of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. It contains “suggestions for college teachers who are looking for a fresh way of creating the best possible environment for learning.” The list is divided into the following sections:

  • Helping Students Make Transitions
  • Directing Students’ Attention
  • Challenging Students
  • Providing Support
  • Encouraging Active Learning
  • Building Community
  • Feedback on Teaching

This web site is titled “Tips for Good Practice: Materials and Resources” and contains two sections. The first one is a link to “A Teacher’s Dozen,” research-based principles for improving higher learning by Thomas A. Angelo. The section feature is links to handouts from the University of Delaware’s Center for Teaching Effectiveness on the following topics:

  • Components of a Learner-Centered Syllabus
  • Designing a Course Syllabus
  • Tips for the First Day and Beyond
  • First-Class Reminders (checklist)
  • Effective Classroom Communication and Presentation Skills

The importance of getting a good start is underscored by Richard M. Felder (North Carolina State University) and Rebecca Brent (East Carolina University) in the following statement from this Web site: “The first day of a course may not determine how well the rest of the course works, but it goes a long way. A good start can carry the instructor through several weeks of early shakiness, and a bad one can take several weeks of damage control to overcome.” The web site includes the following sections:

  • Opening Formalities (syllabus, calendar, policies and procedures)
  • Suggestions for Learning Names
  • Ideas to Motivate Students

Union University’s Center for Faculty Development website is titled “Getting Started: The First Week of Class” and contains the following suggestions:

  • First Day of Class Do’s and Don’ts
  • Learning Students’ Names
  • Predicting Success
  • Some Fundamentals of Good Teaching Practice
  • Student Profile

The English Department at Florida State University has produced a comprehensive website on teaching freshman writing. It contains a list of questions to pose during the first week for a first year writing class. However, the questions could be easily adapted to other classes in order to get to know students better at the beginning of a course.

This website for the University of Minnesota system’s Center for Teaching and Learning Services contains a wealth of teaching and learning resources. It includes “Quick Guides” on the following topics:

  • “Seven Principles for Practice in Good Teaching” by Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda Gamson
  • What I Wish They’d Told Me!
  • The Role of Prior Knowledge in Learning
  • Getting Students Involved
  • Your Syllabus
  • Some Ideas for Lecturing
  • Suggestions for an Effective Lecture
  • So Much Content, So Little Time
  • Setting the Pattern for Active Participation from Day One

Delivee L. Wright of the University of Nebraska compiled the following practical suggestions on the Web site titled “The Most Important Day: Starting Well:”

  • The Importance of Enthusiasm
  • Ice-Breakers
  • Your Own Introduction
  • Course Expectations
  • Textbook Information
  • Questions/Feedback
  • Checklist for the First Day

“The First Day of Class” is taken from the very popular and practical book, Tools for Teaching by Barbara Gross Davis (Jossey-Bass 2001). This Web site contains suggestions on handling administrative matters, creating an open and friendly classroom environment, and setting course expectations and standards.

This useful website compiled by Honolulu Community College provides an overview of the most common teaching methods utilized in the college classroom. It includes the strengths, limitations and suggestions for preparation for the following:

  • Lecture
  • Lecture with discussion
  • Panel of experts
  • Brainstorming
  • Videotapes
  • Class discussion
  • Small group discussion
  • Case Studies
  • Role Playing
  • Report-back sessions
  • Worksheet/Surveys
  • Index Card exercise
  • Guest Speaker
  • Values Clarificaercise

The publisher Glencoe/McGraw Hill offers classroom instruction tips, downloadable checklists, rubrics and other aids, and articles on teaching at the postsecondary level.
The site is divided into the folloctions:

  • Getting ganized
  • Lecture OvDesign
  • PowerPoint r Tips
  • Instructor Management and cation
  • Instructor Management anl Aids
  • Assessmen

The focus of the website created by Rochester Institute of Technology’s Faculty Academy for Distance and Online Learning, is “Effective Teaching Techniques for Distance Learning.” The following components are cluded:

  • Characteristics of Learners with Teachincations
  • Characteristics of Successful Distance Learucators
  • Course Orientation—Getarted
  • The Virtual Classroomaching
  • Motivating Stud Learn
  • Managing Electronic Cations
  • Active and Interacarning
  • Assessing Studenrmance

Section 2: Writing a Course Syl

Howard B. Altman and William E. Cashin provide an extensive list of suggestions from the literature about what information to include in a course syllabus. The authors stress that a syllabus meet teria:

  • Include information that students need to have at the beginnincourse.
  • Include information that students need to hariting.

Grand Rapids Community College’s Center for Teaching and Learning website offers the essential elements of a course syllabus, including description, purpose, and the syllabus format (course information, instructor information, policy statements, class information, right to change, college policies).

Ann Luck at Penn State’s Center for Academic Computing has created “Syllabus Writing 101” that includes how-to information and templates as well as links to examples of the following syllabonents:

  • Course name, number, and isites
  • Course iption
  • Course ctives
  • Required couerials
  • Course ements
  • Course hedule
  • Course licies
  • Gradin

“Creating a Syllabus” is taken from the very popular and practical book, Tools for Teaching by Barbara Gross Davis (Jossey-Bass 2001). It includes suggestions of what to include in a course syllabus.

Florida State University’s instructor handbook includes “Creating a Learner-Centered Syllabus” which focuses on the process of learning rather than the content, emphasizes that the content and teacher adapt to the students rather than expecting the students to adapt to the content, and stresses that responsibility is placed on students to learn rather than on professors to teach. The Web site contains the folloctions:

  • Thoughtful ration
  • Responsibility arning
  • Eight Principles for Designing a course that Supports Critinking
  • Setting ctives
  • Constructing the Learner-Centllabus

Section 3: Motivtudents

“Motivating Students” is taken from the very popular and practical book, Tools for Teaching by Barbara Gross Davis (Jossey-Bass 2001). It includes suggestions on the foltopics:

  • General tegies
  • Incorporating Instructional Behaviors That Motiudents
  • Structuring the Course to Motiudents
  • De-emphasizing Grades
  • Motivating Students by Responding r Work
  • Motivating Students to Deading

Robert Harris provides a list of practical ideas for motivating students. Then he compares classroom learning with playing a sport. Sports are highly motivating for the players. What do sports and classroom learning have in common? What aspects of sports can we adapt to our classrooms?

University of Oregon’s Teaching Effectiveness Program offers a collection of Frequently Asked Questions regarding student motivation. Some examples of questions include: How do I encourage students to be active and interested? How do I deal with apathetic students? How do I deal with groups that are not functioning well together? How do I empower students?

Section 4: Usial Aids

Honolulu Community College’s website lists the advantages and disadvantages of the following common visual aids: slides, flip charts, posters, videos, overhead transparencies, and PowerPoint presentations.

“While the current trend is heading toward the use of the LCD projector technology, the overhead projector is still the most popular presentation device used today.” Seminar leader Lenny Laskowski offers guidelines and tips for an effective presentation using the overhead projector.

At this website, A. C. Lynn Zelmer at West Liberty State College shares guidelines on preparing and using overhead transparencies. Specific topics include: lettering size, font and style, layout and design, content considerations, and using transparencies effectively. Samples are also included.

University of Akron’s College of Education presents suggestions for creating effective overhead transparencies. The website includes the advantages and disadvantages, design guidelines, preparation tips, types of film and how to prepare multiple layer transparencies.


Search Texas Collaborative:

Copyright 2007, Texas Collaborative for Teaching Excellence
This project was funded by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Fiscal Agent: Del Mar College. Website maintained by CORD.
[email protected]