Friday, March 02, 2007

Teaching: Recent Advice

Recently, another (far more experienced than me) professor gave me some unsolicited advice about teaching. This is the first time that this has happened since I started teaching, and I am grateful for it:
  • The best use of student evaluations (especially the numeric parts, i.e. "rate this professor from 1 to 10 in the following areas") is to identify my own relative strengths and weaknesses. There are no absolute criteria to base the numbers on, so knowing that I got a "7" in one category isn't that useful... unless most of my other numbers were significantly higher or lower.
  • Sitting in on another professor's class in order to observe their teaching style is fine, but it's considered polite to warn them first and schedule in advance. No, I haven't committed a faux pas here... but I might have, since it never would have occurred to me. If someone sat in on my class unannounced I'd be flattered.
  • College students aren't fully alert until around 10 or 11 am. If I get stuck with a 9:00 class, there is absolutely nothing I can do about this; it's a fight with human biology.
  • (Corollary 1: If I ever have a say in such things, insist that the earliest classes of the day start at 10, even if it means that the afternoon classes end at 6 instead of 4 or 5.)
  • (Corollary 2: If I can't do that, insist that the early-morning classes are the most useless and expendable in the entire curriculum.)
  • It's good to end class with a game. It reminds the students why they took my class in the first place; it reinforces what we've learned during the class; and amount of time spent on the game can shrink or expand based on how fast we got through the rest of the content.
  • It's good to ask students lots of questions and keep them engaged throughout. As time goes on, I'll learn to spend less time speaking and more time asking good questions and then moderating the conversation. (Should be a useful skill if I ever moderate a GDC roundtable.)

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