Adapted with permission from Farris, 1985
The processes involved in preparing to teach a class depend both upon the expectations of your department and the type of class for which you are responsible. Preparation involves establishing what it is you want students to learn (instructional objectives), choosing instructional strategies (lecture, discussion, lab, individual presentations, group projects, etc. or a combination), and selecting the appropriate materials (texts, handouts, films, videotapes, etc.) to achieve those aims.
Your first step in organizing a course (or single lecture, discussion or lab) should be to establish the level of performance you expect from your students. This may necessitate your administering a diagnostic test or assessing an in-class essay in order to determine what students already know and what they need to learn.
After assessment, your next step is to choose the means of instruction that will enable students to perform at the level you expect. If you need to cover 50 years of research in ten weeks, you will probably lecture. If students must be capable of applying course material, you will not only have to present factual material through texts and lectures, but also show them how to develop generalizations from the background knowledge (discussion, study problems, assignments), and provide them with opportunities to apply newly learned principles in novel situations (laboratory experiments, papers, examinations). (Adapted with permission: Farris, 1985)
Bloom (1956) has proposed a taxonomy of six educational objectives which move from lesser to greater levels of abstraction and complexity in the thinking processes required of students. Instruction can be organized around one or more of these hierarchically arranged objectives: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Particular teaching styles tend to lend themselves to the accomplishment of certain objectives rather than others. For example, lectures facilitate learning at the lower end of the taxonomy — knowledge, comprehension, and application — while discussions or other more interactive teaching styles tend to facilitate higher-order objectives — analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Under ideal circumstances, your choice of teaching style should reflect the level of thinking and learning at which you want students to be engaged.
Hoyt and Perera (2000) categorize objectives contextually:
- Objectives emphasizing knowledge, including gaining factual knowledge, such as terms, classifications, and methods.
- Learning fundamental principles, generalizations, or theories.
- Learning to apply course material to improve critical thinking, decision making, and problem-solving skills.
- Objectives emphasizing general intellectual/academic skills, including
- Learning how to find and use resources for study and research.
- Acquiring an interest in learning by asking questions and seeking answers.
- Objectives emphasizing general intellectual/academic skills, including developing communication skills, both oral and written.
- Learning to analyze and critically evaluate ideas, arguments, and points of view.
- Objectives emphasizing the development of specific skills/competencies, including developing professional skills related to the course.
- Acquiring an interest in learning by asking questions and seeking answers.
- Objectives stressing personal development, including gaining a broader understanding and appreciation of intellectual/cultural activities, like music, science, literature, and other aspects of a liberal education.
- Developing a clearer understanding of, and commitment to, personal values.
Selecting Instructional Strategies
Adapted with permission from Farris, 1985
Once you have decided upon your objectives for a particular course, lecture, or section, it is then necessary to choose instructional strategies which are appropriate to them. Matching instructional strategies to general objectives is an important part of the planning stage. To help match teaching strategies to your objectives, you might ask yourself some of the following questions: (Adapted with permission: Ronkowski, 1986)
- When should I lecture and when should I hold a discussion?
- When should I be showing students how to do something and when should I encourage them to try it themselves?
- When should I use PowerPoint slides or other media?
- When should I “flip” the class so that the traditional instruction takes place out of class and problem solving and concept enrichment occurs during class time?
- When should I respond to a student question (give information) and when should I encourage other students to respond (give opportunity for students to practice skills)?
- If I see someone make a mistake in lab, when should I correct the mistake and when should I let the student discover it?
- When should I review important concepts orally and when should I use handouts?
- If I need to show students a lot of formulas or graphs, should I derive or draw them during class for class discussion or prepare handouts/ PowerPoint sildes and discuss them myself?
- When should I rely on my own expertise, and when should I seek outside sources (videos, YouTube clips, guest speakers, etc.)?
By considering such questions, you can begin to formulate strategies/techniques which match the general objectives you have set for students.
In summary, the planning stage of instruction consists of a series of choices:
- Choosing the objectives you expect students to attain.
- Choosing an appropriate sequence in your instruction for these stated objectives.
- Choosing the materials and instructional strategies to accomplish the goals you set for your class.
Adapted with permission from Northeastern University, 1987
The first day of class can be an anxious experience for your students. Students enter the first day of class with at least four questions (Ericksen, 1984): (1) Is the class going to meet my needs?; (2) Is the teacher competent?; (3) Is the teacher fair?; and (4) Will the teacher care about me? To this list we would add: What does the teacher expect from me? What will I need to do to get a good grade? How will I juggle the workload for this course with the workload in my other courses?
While what you do on the first day of class will address many of these questions, your course syllabus can also do much to calm student anxiety. The syllabus addresses the question of whether the class will meet student needs by presenting an overview of its scope and coverage. The issue of competence is less obviously handled by your syllabus; however, the students will make judgments about you based on such syllabus factors as course structure and organization, how well learning activities (e.g. assignments, exams) are tied to course goals, and how clearly you have delineated your goals, policies, and expectations. The issue of fairness is covered by your statements of policies and expectations. Whether or not you care about your students will come across mostly in face-to-face interactions, but your students will also make judgments on how much you care about them based on syllabus content. What you expect of your students and what students need to do to get a good grade are covered by your statements of goals, policies, and expectations. Finally, the students’ concerns about workload will be addressed by your statements of schedules, assignments, and exams.
The ideal syllabus should serve as a basic reference document for both you and your students. To facilitate clear communication between students and faculty about courses, the University of Florida has adopted a policy requiring departments and faculty to publish for each course a syllabus containing specific information about the structure of the course: UF Faculty Handbook
- Course title, instructor’s contact information including office location, telephone number, and email address; TA contact information if applicable
- Office hours for the professor (and TA if applicable) during which students may meet with the instructor(s)
- Course objectives and/or goals
- A weekly course schedule of topics and assignments
- Methods by which students will be evaluated and their grade determined
- A statement related to class attendance, make-exams, assignments, and other work in this course are consistent with university policies that can be found at: .”
- A statement related to accommodations for students with disabilities such as: “Students with disabilities requesting accommodations should first register with the Disability Resource Center (352-392-8565), by providing appropriate documentation. Once registered, students will receive an accommodation letter which must be presented to the instructor when requesting accommodation. Students with disabilities should follow this procedure as early as possible in the semester.”
- A list of all required and recommended textbooks
- Information on current UF grading policies for assigning grade points. This may be achieved by including a link to the web page: .
- A statement informing students of the online course evaluation process such as: “Students are expected to provide feedback on the quality of instruction in this course by participating in the evaluation system called GatorEvals. The new evaluation system is designed to be more informative to instructors so that teaching effectiveness is enhanced and to be more seamlessly linked to UF’s CANVAS learning management system. Students can complete their evaluations through the email they receive from GatorEvals, in their Canvas course menu under GatorEvals, or via .
- Materials and Supplies Fees, if any
Suggested additional information:
- Critical dates for exams or other work.
- Class demeanor expected by the professor (late to class, cell phones, etc.).
- The University’s honesty policy regarding cheating, plagiarism, etc. Such as: “UF students are bound by The Honor Pledge which states, “We, the members of the University of Florida community, pledge to hold ourselves and our peers to the highest standards of honor and integrity by abiding by the Honor Code. On all work submitted for credit by students at the University of Florida, the following pledge is either required or implied: “On my honor, I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid in doing this assignment.” The Honor Code () specifies a number of behaviors that are in violation of this code and the possible sanctions. Furthermore, you are obligated to report any condition that facilitates the academic misconduct to appropriate personnel. If you have any questions or concerns, please consult with the instructor or TAs in this class.”
- Contact information for the Counseling and Wellness Center: , 392-1575; and the University Police Department: 392-1111 or 9-1-1 for emergencies.
- Any use of students as subjects in research projects MUST receive clearance from the “human subjects” board PRIOR to beginning the project. This policy also includes any survey research conducted by undergraduate or graduate students for class assignments.
- The syllabi for all courses and sections offered each semester must be posted on publicly accessible websites. A college may choose to meet this requirement by posting all its syllabi on a single site or on the web pages of individual departments. Syllabi must be posted at least three days prior to the first day of classes and must be retained on this site for at least three complete semesters (counting summer as a single semester). Any questions regarding this policy should be directed to Dr. Chris Hass, Associate Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs, at 392-4792.
You may access your class roster by going to My UFL , Main Menu, My Self Service, and Manage Class Rolls. This will take you to your class roll in ISIS/admin. If you have created a course in Canvas, your class roster will be downloaded to your Canvas course and will be updated at least twice daily to reflect the class size as students drop and add the course. It is advisable to have a duplicate copy of your roster and recorded grades in the event that your roster is misplaced or accidentally deleted; however, student grades must be stored securely! Files must be encrypted so that grades are not accessible to anyone else. Always be aware of
The use of computer-generated spreadsheets may also be an efficient way of keeping track of student grades, attendance patterns, and general background information (telephone, address, class schedule, etc.). Many computer programs are now available that will calculate final course grades, thus saving you considerable time and energy.
One such software system, E-Learning in Canvas, is available through the Office of Academic Technology. This online course-management system is especially helpful for providing a secure method of compiling grades, making each student’s grades accessible to him or her alone, and submitting data to the registrar’s office. (See the UF e-Learning FAQ’s for information on creating and using Canvas.)
Adapted with permission from University of Tennessee, 1986
Before your first class meeting, it is wise to check the room where you will be teaching. Occasionally a clerical error occurs, causing a class to be scheduled in a broom closet or a nonexistent room. If this happens, when you get another room, post a sign near where the assigned room would have been, directing students to the new location. Some difficulties can also arise regarding the amount of chalkboard space, number of seats, or physical condition of the classroom. You may be able to arrange a room change. See your departmental supervisor.
Once settled, take a look at the way the room is organized. Seating is a prime consideration, and it can do a great deal to either facilitate or hinder what goes on in your classroom. The traditional rule of thumb is to make sure that students are clearly within the instructor’s range of vision.
Remember that you may be able to manipulate seating to foster any number of effects from community to conflict. You will want to experiment and solicit suggestions from students. For example, if you want to encourage discussion, place desks or chairs in a circle or horseshoe. This arrangement facilitates the give-and-take of conversation inasmuch as students can see one another when they talk. Students are also much more likely to get to know one another in a face-to-face seating arrangement and are more apt to stay attentive throughout the hour, as it is more difficult to withdraw or “space out” from a circle without being noticed. If you plan to lecture, arrange the furniture so that all students can easily see you without straining.
Good environments are frequently flexible ones. Feel free to have students move their chairs several times during a class. For example, you might have them move into a circle for discussion, into a small group for in-depth exploration of a topic, and back to rows for your lecture. Experiment with different room arrangements to find those which work best for you. (Adapted with permission: Ronkowski, 1986)
It is possible that you may be assigned to a classroom with fixed seating. If so, you may still be able to conduct group activities by pairing or grouping students sitting close to each other for discussions, etc. Also, remember that you are not confined to the podium or even to the front of the room.
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