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7 Higher-Ed Experts Share Their Tips for New Teachers

Educators at Dr. John DeJoy’s session at Course Hero Education Summit ’19 offer their best advice—earned from a collective 120-plus years of experience.

Educator

John DeJoy, MBA, PhD

Associate Professor of Accounting, Clarkson University, Capital Region Campus, Schenectady, NY

Postdoc in Accounting and Finance, PhD in Adult Education, MA in Theology, MS in Educational Administration, CFE, CPA, MBA, BBA in Accounting

What can novice teachers learn from a comedy nerd, a maniacal knitter, a mountain biker, a documentary filmmaker, a first-gen college graduate, a 2019 Course Hero–Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and a former landlord to nine cats? Plenty, thanks to a session hosted by John DeJoy, PhD, an associate professor of accounting at Clarkson University in Schenectady, New York. The activity, which was part of the Course Hero Education Summit ’19, was titled “Hindsight Is 20/20: Helping Novice Teachers Avoid Our Mistakes,” and it asked participants to offer up their best teaching tips. Below are six strategies they shared—plus a bonus tip.

Keep assignments lean

“When we give a really onerous, tedious assignment, [we] don’t want to do it either,” said Rebecca Campbell, PhD, a professor of educational psychology at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. “Smaller, cleaner, leaner is quicker for them to do … and faster to grade. It’s a win-win.” Her suggestion: Think intentionally about every assignment. How are you going to grade it? How much time is that going to take—and is that going to impact your research?

Consider the circumstances

“[Students] bring their culture and their previous lives into the classroom,” said Jonathan Chin, MA, an adjunct professor of English at CUNY. “So it’s really important, as a teacher, to recognize that sometimes there are gaps in knowledge. There are gaps in skills. And that doesn’t come from them. It comes from all this baggage that comes with them. It’s not their fault, it’s just their circumstance.” Getting to know students’ lives outside the classroom can help educators understand their struggles and know when they need extra help—or an extra day to finish an assignment.

See resources shared by John DeJoy, MBA, PhD

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Make no assumptions

Kevin Sukanek, MS, a senior lecturer of mathematics at The University of Tennessee–Knoxville, also mentors grad students who teach calculus. He tells mentees to think about whether they are telling students everything they need to know. One example: “There’s a lot of prerequisites [for math classes],” he said. “Are you expecting them to know things that you didn’t go over in class?” Another example: “Don’t just talk about office hours, talk about what office hours are,” he said. One student thought office hours were when the professor was not supposed to be disturbed.

Just be yourself

Kate Elgayeva, PhD, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, says it is important to be authentic. “I know that when I’m trying to be someone else, it feels awkward,” she said. “[Students] see that, and they read that. And they disengage with the content.” In fact, she finds that it pulls their focus away from the content and onto her.

To connect with students, Elgayeva asks how they are, shares a story about what she is doing, or makes a joke. Then, she says, students “start getting engaged in terms of the content, because they see you kind of like a trusted confidante.”

Bonus Tip: Build Study Skills with Open-Notes Quizzes

This tip came from Katie M. Wiens, PhD, assistant professor of molecular biology and chemistry at Christopher Newport University in Virginia, during a different Summit session. After every homework reading assignment, Wiens gives students an in-class, open-notes quiz. She said that this encourages students to read and take notes on the chapter because they know they can earn extra points. After a few quizzes, students begin to realize that the note-taking helps them remember more for the big tests.

Use tech to connect

Campbell said that she uses the free texting app Remind, which is double-blind (students and educators do not see each other’s cell numbers). “The texting skyrocketed,” she said. “They don’t feel like they’re ‘bothering’ me.” The app allows her to set up reminders, too. “At the beginning of the semester I schedule a reminder for every assignment, to come out 24 hours before it’s due,” she said. The process takes her just 30 minutes.

Make time for prep time

Jennifer Stanford, PhD, an associate professor of biology at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said that experienced educators make teaching look easy—as if they do it on the fly. She recalled this teachable moment on the topic: “A student gave a presentation that was beautiful. Then another student gave a presentation with a lot of stops and starts,” she said. “The student who gave the really good talk said, ‘I practiced my talk 10 times.’” The other student realized that practice, not natural ability, was what made the difference.

DeJoy, too, likes to be prepared. His tip: Scope out your space ahead of time. “This morning, I came straight to this room,” he said. The layout was different than he had expected, so he had to make some adjustments to his presentation. “I’d rather know what I’m getting into at 8:30 in the morning than 10:29 in the morning,” he said.

Based on the plethora of practical tips that emerged from the session, his adaptations worked perfectly.

Context

The insights in this article were gleaned from the session “Hindsight Is 20/20: Helping Novice Teachers Avoid Our Mistakes,” led by Dr. John DeJoy on July 18, 2019, as part of the Education Summit’s Course Design track.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about Dr. DeJoy’s approach to bolstering accounting students’ communication skills, read the article “Did You Get the Memo? Tips to Help Auditors Communicate,” which he produced with Course Hero earlier this year.

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