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How to Teach – Step One

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College professors are a unique breed in that we’re hired primarily for what we know, but aren’t necessarily trained as teachers – the job we’re hired to do. With the diversity and complexity of today’s student, teaching is not always that simple or that obvious. Over the summer, the CETL blog will review the basics of teaching, what works, and what can be improved. Please weigh in with your ideas and experiences!

Every good lesson begins with a plan. Planning helps you stay focused on a specific lesson rather than trying to teach everything all at once. It also provides a valuable record, so you know what works and what doesn’t.

Definitions vary, but essentially lessons contain 4 basic elements – objectives, presentation or practice, materials, and evaluation. A lesson can be a single class session or a several weeks project, depending on your objective – what you want to accomplish in the lesson.

The Course Outline defines what the school wants the student to know. What you need to determine is how the student will demonstrate that knowledge. For example, if the objective is “the student will identify the basic elements of X model,” you can have the student:

  • Pick the right elements in a multiple-choice quiz
  • Name the important parts on a physical model
  • Draw a diagram of the necessary elements
  • Write a paper describing each element and its role

You set the challenge based on the standard practice in your field, but you can also set a fun challenge. For example, you might have the student:

  • Devise a test for their peers
  • Create a video or photo guide of the basic elements
  • Twitter clues to their peers on how to find the basic elements

You decide based on how complex your subject is and how much students are willing and capable of doing. For more on lesson planning, see:

For some creative examples of meeting objectives, see:

For hands-on, practical help in lesson planning, see your CETL Faculty Associate or check out:

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