Handbook Cover

The OTLT Center for Teaching’s Handbook for Teaching Excellence is a resource designed to make your teaching life a little easier. We asked faculty members and Center for Teaching staff to share strategies from the handbook that they’ve found informative or useful.

Introducing Yourself

Your introduction to the class on the first day is important to set the tone for the semester. Write your name on the board and include how you would like to be addressed. My experience is that students are often uncertain about what to call their instructors. Establish your disciplinary expertise by telling students about your educational background and focus of your scholarship. Where relevant, describe how you use some of the skills students will develop in the course.

Mary Hall Reno, professor of Physics and Astronomy.

Keeping Students Engaged

Students learn and retain information and skills better if they are actively involved in the learning process. Student engagement can happen in a variety of ways including active learning, writing assignments, and service learning.

Lexi Atzen, Center for Teaching SITA and graduate student in School Counseling, College of Education

Helping Students Respect Others

It is your responsibility to ensure an open, respectful discussion that ensures the comfort of your students to voice their opinions and express their ideas. Encourage your class to set ground rules for interaction that are both supportive and encouraging. Be prepared to think ahead and know how to respond appropriately to disrespectful interactions.

Lexi Atzen, Center for Teaching SITA and graduate student in School Counseling, College of Education

How Will My Teaching Be Evaluated

This section provides helpful advice on how to gather low-stakes feedback from students, which will help the instructor get to know the students better as well as build trust with them by demonstrating that the instructor cares about student learning, how the instructor’s teaching is facilitating it, and that the instructor is willing to make accommodations based upon their unique needs.

Erik Fuhrer, assistant director, Center for Teaching

Become Familiar with Your Classroom and Students

It’s often surprising how much the layout of a classroom can affect learning. Understanding the space well will help instructors leverage each classroom’s unique profile to meet the needs of the course and the students within it. 

Erik Fuhrer, assistant director, Center for Teaching

Get to Know Your Students

One of the best ways to show you care about your students is to make an effort to learn their names. Students consistently say that the best teachers care about them as people as well as learners. 

Yoko Nakamura, Center for Teaching graduate assistant and PhD candidate in the UI Graduate College

A Definite Beginning, a Definite Ending

At the end of each class, pose questions or a dilemma for them to ponder for discussion (or a quiz or one-minute paper) next time. This helps bridge the distance between class periods and encourages students to think about and discuss the subject outside of the class and to prepare for the next session. 

Sara Nasrollahian, assistant director, Center for Teaching

Invite Students into the Learning Process

Early in the semester, invite students into the learning process by indicating how you learn from them. This strategy nurtures a collaborative as well as constructive learning environment, where the teacher is not the center of the class; rather, the instructor is a co-learner who also facilitates the learning activities.

Sara Nasrollahian, assistant director, Center for Teaching

Behavioral Expectations

Engage students in reflection and conversation about why and how they learn. Incorporating opportunities for metacognitive activities encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning and helps to forge a strong learning community.  It also signals to them that you assume the best of them as learners. 

Jean Florman, director, Center for Teaching.

Plagiarism and Cheating

Open discussion about the importance of academic integrity should be a frequent part of students’ academic life. Mutual respect and trust are essential to the life of a university. Students who commit academic fraud rob themselves of the fundamental purposes of education to stretch their intellectual curiosity, knowledge, and abilities.

Jean Florman, director, Center for Teaching.

To request a copy of the handbook be mailed to you, please contact the Center for Teaching at teaching@uiowa.edu or 319-335-6048, or feel free to stop by our office in University Capitol Centre 2080 (above Hills Bank) to pick one up. If you have questions about these or other teaching strategies, please contact the Center for Teaching.