Bang ON Teaching
"You and your subject are not the most important things in your student's lives"- Bang 2011
"I'm gonna learn you something today if it kills me!"- Bang 2009
"They hate role plays as much as you hate watching them,
simulations are way more fun"- Bang 2012
"When it comes to academic misconduct a ton of prevention
beats an ounce of enforcement"- Bang 2012
"Talk, ask and listen. You'll be surprised at what you learn!"- Bang 2012
"Humor is the chocolate syrup of lecturing"- Bang 2011
"If it can't be applied it doesn't need to be taught"- Bang 2010
"Show and tell should be heavy on showing and light on telling"- Bang 2011
"Most students don't understand the importance of attending graduation
until the ceremony is over. Encourage them to participate
and be there to cheer for them!"- Bang 2011
"They didn't do the reading, they don't remember the reading and they
don't understand the reading are the only assumptions you should ever make about students"- Bang 2012
"If you want students to participate load up on carrots and put the stick away"- Bang 2011
"Nothing beats a field trip for hands on learning"- Bang 2010
"To help students experience real life assignments should
be based on real experiences"- Bang 2010
"They won't believe you read their paper unless you write a comment on it, always start with a positive one"- Bang 2012
"To be a winning professor you need to be a winning coach"- Bang 2011
"Ask and they shall engage"- Bang 2009
I have been teaching since the year 2000 and I am amazed to report that I still learn something new every time I get in front of a group of students. When I reflect on my early years as a college professor I shudder at how little I knew about important issues such as student evaluation, classroom dynamics and learning styles. The courses I have taken on adult education and the on-going professional development sessions here at Humber have been helpful in guiding me through the obstacle filled pathway called learning however I am the type of person who learns best by doing and, in some cases, by making mistakes. Allow me to share some things I have learned along the way in the hopes that they will give you a better perspective of why I do the things I do in the classroom.
The best place to start is defining what expectations should we have for our students and the best answer to this is "none". After many painful lectures I have learned that the only assumptions you should make about the average student is that they have not completed the pre-class reading, they can't remember what they read or they don't understand the material (they may not even own the textbook!). Granted there will be some students that have accomplished all three however if you make the assumption they have you could be leaving a majority of the class behind. Hand in hand with this is the notion that you are the most important person in your student's lives and your subject is the most important one they are taking. Well I hate to break it to you but neither is true so rather than try to vie for supremacy I prefer to work with my students by asking them about their current workload and adjusting my requirements to better meet their needs. After all, they are my customers and we should all strive to maximize customer service (can you tell I teach service). As an example I once moved a final exam to the third week before the end of term to accommodate a class and the result was an 83% class average and 54 happy students.
I am a big believer in providing a consistent class experience, and one that encourages students to attend on a regular basis. I also believe that music and humor are great in a classroom and I play music prior to the start of class and at the breaks to loosen up the mood. I disagree with the statement "we are there to teach and not entertain" as I believe we need to entertain the students to keep them engaged. To do this I tell humorous stories about myself that relate to the content and I often show funny videos that are relevant to what we are learning. At the beginning of each semester I let the class set the rules for class behavior. We generally agree on no ringing cell phones and that computers are OK in class providing they are being used for note taking and don't disrupt other students. I don't take formal attendance however I give the students a pop-quiz at the end of each class based on the subject matter reviewed in that class so I always know who has attended based on who wrote the pop-quiz. Each class we take up the pop-quiz from the previous class which allows us to review what we learned in the previous class and sets up the session for that day. Each semester I do a "stop, start, continue" exercise with all classes and the pop-quiz comes up every time as a "continue". I also write an agenda on the board including the learning outcomes for the class to help keep us on track and we review it at the start of each class.
Communicating with the students throughout the term is clearly one of the most important things one can do. Given that few people are auditory learners I try to post on Blackboard any instructions I have provided in the classroom regarding things like upcoming assignments and tests. I post the slides and assignments for the entire year on Blackboard during the first week of the semester as I believe this will help the students who wish to look ahead. When it comes to e-mail I try to answer any e-mail received within 24 hours as this is the standard in business today and I think it is important to demonstrate to the students how the business world works.
When it comes to student evaluation I try to provide a variety styles to test a student's understanding of the material. All of my exams are application based essay question or case study format. I'm not big on forcing a student to memorize theory and bullets on a slide preferring to have them demonstrate to me that they understand how to apply the concepts we have learned. The students generally find my exams fair and relatively straight forward and some have told me they actually enjoy writing them. The individual and group assignments are based on application as well and usually require the students to go into the field. My favorite evaluation format is the simulation and I run several large ones every semester where students are given a part to play and are asked to interact with the other students in the class over several periods to test their ability at applying the concepts they have learned. The student feedback from these sessions is always excellent as is the learning.
Measuring one's success as a teacher is a complex process. For me it starts with student attendance. It doesn't matter to me if the students come to hear my funny stories, learn the content, write the pop-quiz or to meet with their friends all the counts is that they attend and give me a chance to share some knowledge with them. I find that my attendance is usually around 85% - 90% which, I understand, is above average for the college. The Student Evaluation Questioner is also a good way to see how well the students enjoy my class and, over the past 10 years my results have consistently been in the top 20% of professors at Humber (sometimes as high as the top 5%). Another area I use for self evaluation is the class average. From my perspective a high class average indicates that the students understand the material which reflects on my ability to deliver it. My class averages range from 72% to 81% which I believe is quite good. Finally I like to measure how my students feel about my teaching based on the number of graduation photos I am asked to appear in. Graduation is my favorite time of year and I try to sit close to the front so I can see the smiles on the faces of my students when they shake the President's hand and receive their parchment. I always feel a great sense of accomplishment knowing that I had a hand in their success.