Random Thoughts on Instructional Design
One helpful starting point is to ask your department secretary or chairperson for all available information about the courses you have been assigned to teach (e.g., recent course syllabi on file, names of faculty who last taught the class). Speak with experienced instructors and closely examine their syllabi.
If the following issues are not addressed in the written materials you have been given, make certain your conversations consider the following course planning questions:
One other important planning issue involves student use of library materials. To ensure that appropriate materials are available, consultation with members of the USP library faculty and staff is recommended when you are planning student library assignments. Through on-line searching and document delivery services, you and your students can have access to literature in any discipline.
A member of the library faculty serves as the liaison to each academic department. Ask your department chairperson or call the library reference desk for the name of the individual who handles requests for reserve materials, book orders, and other library-related matters for your department.
Nervousness among new instructors is commonplace on the first day of class. Some simple yet effective ways to reduce anxiety include:
Because students sometimes have difficulty locating their classrooms on the first day of class, it is helpful to be in the classroom five or ten minutes early. It is usually a good idea to write the title of the course, the course section number and your name on the board before students arrive. Thus, students can quickly determine that they are in the right classroom.
Giving students something during the first day of class is also a good idea. Distributing course syllabi or other handouts communicates that you are prepared and organized. Handouts provide students with something to refer back to throughout the semester. Because handouts help focus attention, they can reduce the natural nervousness, yours and theirs, that is common on the first day.
In addition to providing an introduction to your course and its requirements, you might also consider offering a brief personal introduction. Students are typically curious about instructors as people. Directly addressing this curiosity can reduce feelings of uncertainty. Further, communication research suggests that credibility is influenced significantly by an audience’s perception of a speaker’s expertise and trustworthiness. Your personal introduction can readily address both these considerations.
Indicate why you chose the field you are in and why you find your discipline fascinating. Describe how your background (i.e., educational, professional, personal) has prepared you to teach the course. To help convey that you are approachable, you might mention where you are from, where you did your undergraduate/graduate work, what type of student experiences you had, and any unique hobbies or other interests you have.
Furthermore, you may want to describe the rationale underlying the course structure, content, and assignments. Discussing why you have chosen certain teaching methods in contrast to other instructional approaches may also be appropriate. This discussion can demonstrate that you have thought carefully about your teaching and how it will enhance student learning.
One of the best ways to get classes off to a strong and positive start is to prepare clear, comprehensive and engaging course syllabi. Ideally, a course syllabus should be more than a simple listing of curriculum topics, assigned readings and examination dates. The most effective syllabi outline the settings, conditions, expectations, and performance criteria for students. While many instructors enjoy preparing course syllabi with a “personal touch,” a course syllabus should, at a minimum, address the following:
In addition, it is helpful to:
Being clear and explicit on these matters at the start of the term will reduce significantly the number of stressful and unpleasant grade disputes you will have to resolve at the end of the semester.