We’ve summarized some resources on important topics to consider when teaching at the college level.
A selection of teaching topics include:
- Diversity in the classroom
- Course design
- Teaching methods
- Teaching and learning with technology
- Grading and assessment
- Evaluating teaching
You can also search within the Searle Center Library for publications available for check out. You can also read teaching and learning comments and suggestions from Northwestern undergrads.
Teaching in a diverse environment brings benefits and challenges. The benefits – including improved learning outcomes, increased empathy, and greater creativity – have been demonstrated in the research. But the challenges can raise daunting questions: What if I alienate some of my students? What if I inadvertently say the wrong thing? Why are my efforts to help some students not working?
The best approach to teaching within or about diversity is to create an inclusive classroom – using principles of universal design – in which all students feel welcome and engaged in learning. Read how in the resources below.
- Creating inclusive college classrooms
- Universal Design for Learning guidelines
- Teaching for diversity and inclusiveness in STEM disciplines
- Teaching about diversity
- Information on stereotype threat
- Teaching in an international/multicultural classroom
- Multiculturalism and Science: Teaching Diversity Values in ‘Value-Neutral’ Science
While designing a course from scratch can be a daunting task, simply revising a course can also present its challenges. Identifying the content and skills you would like students to attain as a result of your class is an excellent place to start.
- Designing better learning experiences, tips and handouts
- Course design – Vanderbilt University
- Course design – Carnegie Mellon
- Course design – University of Michigan
When deciding on which teaching methods to use in their teaching, instructors should first reflect on the learning objectives they would like their students to achieve.
Learning objectives should inform the selection of teaching methods. In one class, interactive lecture might be appropriate, while in another class, small group learning activities, discussion, or active learning strategies methods might be more effective.
Regardless of the teaching activity or strategy selected, instructors should think through their purpose and goals of using that particular approach.
- What is interactive lecture?
- Working in small groups
- Facilitating effective in-class discussions
- Information on active learning
While it may be tempting to assume that a flashy new technology will transform teaching and learning, it’s important to first reflect on your overall course goals and learning objectives. How will this technology support those goals and objectives? How does that technology support learning?
Whether you’re using a tool like “clickers” (personal response systems or “flipping the classroom,” technology must be integrated effectively in order to enhance learning.
- Getting Started with Technology
- Information on classroom response systems (clickers)
- Flipping the classroom
How you assess student learning has important repercussions for student motivation and take-aways. There are several ways to determine grades, each of which has its advantages and disadvantages.
Consider Classroom Assessment Techniques to informally gauge student learning while helping students reflect on their learning process.
Or, creating rubrics can help streamline your grading process and illustrate your expectations. While grading writing assignments can be an enormous challenge, there are ways to effectively design and respond to student writing which can help students identify where they can improve their skills.
- Grading systems
- Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)
- Creating and using rubrics
- Best practices for assigning and grading writing
Teaching evaluations can be a meaningful way to find direction for improving teaching. While it’s natural to feel a bit defensive when reading negative comments, good teachers look for meaning behind the feedback and read them with a thick skin.
Good practices in evaluating teaching include:
- Talking with students about reasons for evaluating the course and the sort of feedback that will be useful.
- Asking useful questions.
- Small-scale evaluations and checks on student learning – “classroom assessment techniques” – throughout the term.
Teachers should also avoid comparing their evaluations with their colleagues’, especially those who teach different kinds of courses, since evaluations can be influenced by factors such as course type. And perhaps the most important advice of all: take evaluations with a small dose of humor.