Educational Effectiveness Resources Teaching Resources

Developing and Revising Course Syllabi

The form and content of a syllabus vary widely by discipline, department, course, and instructor. However, in all cases, the syllabus provides the instructor and students with a common reference point that sets the stage for learning throughout the course. While working on your syllabi please use our Westmont Guidelines for Course Syllabi.

Planning and Designing Your Courses

Bob Harrison’s material Lesson Design and Planning is a good source for planning and designing effective courses. In this material, Harrison refers to Bloom's Taxonomy, which is another helpful tool for student-centered faculty.

Your First Class Meeting

Whatever you decided to do on your first day, it is important that you cover the following four bases: present the syllabus to the students; introduce the course topic and/or some material; require at least some students to participate; and begin building rapport with your students. Your will find some useful tips for your first class meeting in Getting Started: Your First Class Meeting.

Teaching Students with Different Learning Styles

No matter what your classroom environment might be, your students are sure to have a spectrum of learning styles. Many instructors find it helpful to understand more about the diversity of their students' learning styles, and to vary their teaching in order to provide a variety of opportunities to learn. You may consider asking your students to complete an online Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire and share the results with you. The document Understanding Your Learning Style: The Soloman-Felder Index of Learning Styles can help you interpret the results and select the appropriate teaching methods and strategies.

Classroom Management

Good classroom management is critical to creating an environment conducive to learning. You may consider developing a plan for managing the classroom that fits your personal style. You may use humor and occasional dramatic outbursts to communicate your point. Or you may use non-verbal cues (e.g. stopping, moving around the room, moving closely to the person text-messaging or having a side conversation and requesting cooperation), other students (develop expectations and norms for behavior together), and private conversations outside of class to reinforce a point. Or you may address issues of entitlement by clarifying roles, focusing on the costs to other students, or directly confronting classroom etiquette and responsibility issues with the whole group. The important thing is not to ignore the instances of rule violation or feel traumatized by the behavior. Dealing with Disruptors and Difficult Students will provide you with useful tips for managing your classroom situation when problems occur.

Inclusive Teaching

Inclusive teaching means teaching in ways that do not exclude students, accidentally or intentionally, from opportunities to learn. Inclusive faculty reflect on how they teach, as well as what they teach, in order to engage the wide range of experiences and learning styles their students bring to the classroom.

Communicating clear expectations, using inclusive language, and articulating your commitment to honoring diverse perspectives can all contribute to a more welcoming learning environment. Additionally, a wide range of experiences and learning styles, giving students the opportunity to provide feedback at different times throughout the semester, can also be helpful in assessing how well your inclusive strategies are working.

Research has shown that a significant way to support student learning is for the instructor to convey the expectation that students are capable of learning. Unfortunately, it is not difficult to undermine student confidence with simple comments, seemingly unwarranted criticism, or non-verbal behavior that comes across as unwelcoming – whether these things are directed at specific students in the class or at groups of people not even present in the classroom. The following materials on Developing Cultural Competence, Infusing Cultural Awareness in Teaching and Diversity in the Classroom may be helpful for mastering your inclusive teaching strategies and enhancing student learning and success. There are also some discipline-specific strategies which are worth considering, such as those described in the article "Psychological Insights for Improved Physics Teaching."

High-Impact [Educational] Practices (HIPs)

Findings of LEAP (Liberal Education and America's Promise), a decade-long national initiative launched by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) have proven that the following high-impact educational practices considerably raise students' level of learning across different demographic groups:

  • First-Year Seminar and Experiences
  • Common Intellectual Experiences /Core Curriculum
  • Learning Communities
  • Writing-Intensive Courses
  • Collaborative Assignments and Projects
  • Undergraduate Research
  • Diversity/Global Learning
  • Service Learning /Community-Based Learning
  • Internships
  • Capstone Courses and Projects

Source: High-Impact Educational Practices by George G. Kuh, 2009; "Assessment of High-Impact Practices" by Ashley Finley, Peer Review 2011, 13: 2, PP. 29-33

Early Informal Teaching Evaluation

Do not wait for a formal end-of-semester teaching evaluation. It is a good practice to administer an informal evaluation within the first three weeks of the semester and then repeat it in three weeks. You may use the following informal evaluation forms for soliciting your students' feedback:

Two-Question Informal Teaching Evaluation

Eight-Question Informal Teaching Evaluation

If your informal evaluations are not as good as you would like them to be you may request a 20-minute student focus group session by contacting Tatiana Nazarenko at 6070 or