Ten Signs You are in the Right Class

On January 13, 2010, U.S. News & World Report ran an article entitled, 10 Warning Signs of a Bad Professor. I reframed this as a positive list entitled, “Ten Signs You are in the Right Class.” Michael Dabney hosted this at Hawaii Pacific University, but since he’s retiring this year, I decided to put a version up on this blog. Here it is:

Ten Signs You are in the Right Class

On the First Day of Class…

The instructor demonstrates that he/she cares about the student’s learning.

The instructor learns the names of the students.

The instructor makes an effort to learn about students’ prior knowledge about the course topics and learning outcomes.

The instructor encourages students to contribute to the class and structures class to support such contributions.

The instructor treats students respectfully and insists that they do the same for each other, even when conversations get heated.

When You Look at the Syllabus…

Learning outcomes for the course are clear.

The assignments are clearly linked to the learning outcomes.

Higher levels of learning are not identified anywhere in the course.

The course material is clearly organized into groups of 3-7 chunks and those chunks make sense to the students.

Students are given a choice about some of the assignments that allows them to work on topics of personal interest.

Criteria for how to do well on assignments are clearly delineated.

The course’s grading scheme reinforces individual student accountability for doing the reading, thinking about it, and participating in class.

The grading structure makes it clear that student mastery of the learning outcomes will be checked frequently through a variety of assessments, not just through two or three tests.

As the Class Progresses…

Assignments build in complexity and in student responsibility for their success.

More than one example is used to illustrate points when lecturing.

A variety of pedagogical techniques are used, which help keep all the students interested and engaged with the course.

Formative assessment such as ungraded classroom assessment techniques are used to appraise student understanding.

The instructor summarizes student comments and gives timely, accurate and fulsome feedback.

Students are required to apply knowledge or analyze the readings, not just memorize what the instructor says.

Students have to question their assumptions about what is being taught or their own understanding of it.

PS: The CTE has now put this into the format of a teaching tip called, Signs You are in the Right Class.

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About dakinburdick

Dakin Burdick has a Ph.D. in U.S. History and American Studies and has worked in educational and instructional development since 2000. Most recently he was the Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Endicott College in Massachusetts. He is an Assistant Professor there and teaching undergraduate history and is a graduate faculty member in the Homeland Security program and in the Educational Leadership program.
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