Some Quick Teaching Tips from SMU Award-Winning Professors

I am always working to improve myself as a teacher. I think about how I can more clearly convey information to my students, motivate them, push them to think harder and more carefully, make class more fun and memorable, and relate to my students on a deeper level. Of course CTE is a great resource for interesting teaching ideas, and CTE discussions and events encourage me to think more about these matters. At the end of the semester, though, when I’m feeling exhausted, I sometimes long for some quick tips about how to improve my teaching. Along these lines, here are some quick tips from some of SMU’s award-winning professors:

  1. “Set the tone you want for your class from the first day and always be an example of the characteristics you are hoping your students will learn and present.”

-Professor Carrie La Ferle, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award (2012), President’s Associates Outstanding Faculty Award (2009)

  1. “[P]rovide the students at the beginning of the semester with bound spiral booklets that include:  1) many or even all of your old exam questions from prior semesters, and 2) a copy of the best student answer for each semester’s exam. Then during the semester you can hold extra review sessions, once every week or two, where you work though a representative selection of assigned old exam problems. This review process assures that all serious students will have clear and accurate expectations as to the nature of the exam problems that you will expect them to be able to handle, and the kind of analyses of those problems that you are looking for.”

-Professor Gregory S. Crespi, Don M. Smart Award for Excellence in Teaching (1994, 1999, 2005, 2010, 2013)

  1. “If you have a class of 50 students or less, get to know the name of every student in the course. This helps students to feel appreciated, it enhances their accountability and it opens the door for students to feel you are approachable for future interactions.”

-Professor Carrie La Ferle, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award (2012), President’s Associates Outstanding Faculty Award (2009)

  1. “Project confidence. The teacher is like the pilot of the airplane. If she makes it sound like everything is going well, the passengers will believe her even when things get bumpy. If the pilot seems unsure, the passengers will think things are going badly even if all is smooth.” (Thanking Professor Eric Barnes for the tip.)

-Professor Robert Howell, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award (2009)

  1. “[M]y latest experiment is in Active Learning. It looks like Tom Mayo gave it a try according to his recent blog post.  That’s basically what I’ve tried to do this semester.  Essentially, have students do something on their own in class besides just listening to me and taking notes!”

-Professor David Y. Son, HOPE Award (2003, 2011, 2012), Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award (2011)

  1. “Always look for opportunities for students to be interactive with the subject material, peers, and you during class time – experiential can help you be effective as an instructor. Students can find the facts in many places, but an engaging classroom environment can help bring those facts to life.”

-Professor Robert E. Krout, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award (2013), SMU University Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award (2012), SMU Meadows School of the Arts Outstanding Teaching Professor (2010-2011)

  1. “SMU students can be risk-averse, especially in larger classes, and it can hold back class discussion. One simple strategy I use is to pose a question to the group and give them 2-3 minutes to write a response down. Then I ask them to trade their papers with a neighbor and ask students who find themselves holding an answer they find especially insightful to read it aloud. The anonymity breaks the cycle of self-criticism that often keeps students from speaking up, while having other students read the work gives them a chance to acknowledge good ideas. Overall, it helps get discussion going and builds community for the next time.”

-Professor Pamela Patton, President’s Associates Outstanding Faculty Award (2011)

  1. “When I think students aren’t dedicating enough time to my class I provide them with a weekly schedule and I have them block out all the times they HAVE to be somewhere (scheduled classes, work, etc).  Then I have them schedule well-being time (exercise and social).  Then I ask them to show me when they work on my class.  For some students it’s the first time they realize that they have no time for studying on MWF and T TH is best for that YET they use T TH for hanging out with friends.  It can be a very powerful moment for students who don’t use time planning systems.”

-Professor Sheri Kunovich, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award (2013), Margareta Deschner Teaching Award (2013), Golden Mustang Award (2010)

  1. “Listen to standup comedians talk about their art. They read an audience much like we do and they are very reflective about what makes things go well. How do you deal with a heckler? How do you deal with a bit falling flat? We are performers too and need to think about these things.”

-Professor Robert Howell, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award (2009)

  1. “Exams are supposed to be educational experiences.  Do not ask students to simply repeat what you and the book tells them. Ask questions that make the students THINK and apply the concepts and knowledge they have acquired.”

-Professor Patty Wisian-Neilson, President’s Associates Outstanding Faculty Award (2013), HOPE Award (2012), Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award (2005)

  1. “I am always looking for the student who wants to be what she wants to seem.”

-Professor Mary Vernon, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award (2006), HOPE Award (2001), Meadows Foundation Distinguished Teaching Award (1998–1999), Outstanding Professor Award (1974)

  1. “Uphold the highest of academic standards even at the expense of your teaching evaluations. Good students will respect you for this.”

-Professor Patty Wisian-Neilson, President’s Associates Outstanding Faculty Award (2013), HOPE Award (2012), Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award (2005)

About Meghan Ryan

AA-Law(Faculty)
This entry was posted in Teaching Methods. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Some Quick Teaching Tips from SMU Award-Winning Professors

  1. Tom Mayo says:

    Excellent suggestions all. Thanks for sharing!

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