Friday, March 11, 2011

Advice to beginning lecturers

Starting to teach/lecture is a daunting and often overwhelming task. Many a young faculty member has seen their research program grind to a halt as they embark on teaching their first course. Furthermore, it can be a very stressful rather than an enjoyable experience.
Here are a few things I wish someone had told me or if they did that I had listened and taken to heart!

  • Your first lectures don't have to be perfect! Limit how many hours you spend on preparation. You can always polish lectures the second and third time you give the course.
  • Your goal should be to just survive.
  • Don't under-estimate how little students will learn or how little they know! Most of the new insights and subtleties you are getting as you prepare the lectures will be lost on the students. Just because they had covered a subject in a pre-requisite course does not all mean that they actually know and understand that material.
  • Technology should be your friend not a slave master. Blackboard, TurnItin, course blogs, online quizes, computer simulations etc. can greatly reduce your workload. But beware of getting bogged down with technical problems with making these things work. Never write your own software. It just isn't worth the time.
  • The textbook is your friend (and the students). The more you follow it the easier it is for everyone. Again, don't be a perfectionist and take material from lots of different books (unless you are teaching an advanced level graduate course).
  • Don't pander to unrealistic expectations of a small number of students or fear student evaluations.
  • Don't use Powerpoint too much. It may be slick but students will quickly go to sleep. Derivations should be done on the board by hand.
  • Keep it simple.
  • At the beginning clearly state the goal of the lecture. At the end clearly state the main point.
  • Enjoy! It is  a great joy and privilege kindling student interest and understanding. An added bonus is how much you will learn too!

1 comment:

  1. "Derivations should be done on the board by hand."
    Or on a tablet!