Notes from the Music Studio — Christine Zaza

playing pianojpgWhen I reflect on teaching and learning in higher education I realize that much of what I learned, I learned when I was a music student. Here are some of the highlights from the music studio that are just as applicable to university teaching and learning:

Practice, practice, practice. Actually, this would more aptly be phrased Practice-Feedback, Practice-Feedback, Practice-Feedback, but the rhythm just isn’t as good. I wouldn’t expect anyone to become a professional violinist without regular lessons with a qualified teacher. Regular feedback is critical to guiding students as they develop new skills. Without regular feedback, bad habits can become engrained and difficult to correct. In university, students learn a number of new skills and new ways of thinking and they need multiple opportunities to practice these skills with regular feedback. To ensure that students focus on the feedback and not just the grade, instructors can give a follow-up assignment students to make revisions highlighting how they have incorporated the feedback that they received on their first submission.

Practice the performance. When preparing for a recital or audition (a summative test), music students are advised to practice performing in front of friends, family –teddy bears if need be – several times, before the actual performance. Preparing for a performance is different from preparing for weekly lessons. Good performance preparation is crucial because in a performance you get one shot at the piece. There are no do-overs on stage. Similarly, when writing music theory or history exams, practicing the exam is an expected part of exam preparation. To facilitate this preparation, the Royal Conservatory of Music sells booklets of past exams. The Conservatory also returns graded exams so that students can see exactly where they earned and lost marks: considering that the Royal Conservatory of Music administers thousands of exams, three times a year, across the globe, this is a huge undertaking. At university, we know that self-testing is an effective study strategy and some instructors do provide several practice exams questions in their course. However, due to academic integrity concerns, the common practice is to deny students access to past exams as well as their own completed exam. I wonder if academic misconduct would be less of an issue if students were allowed to use past exams as practice tools. Amassing a large enough pool of past exam questions should address the concern that students will just memorize answers to questions that they’ve seen in advance.

Explicit instruction is key. It’s not very helpful to just tell a novice piano student to go home and practice. In the name of practicing, a novice student will, more than likely, play his or her piece over a few times, from bar 1 straight to the end, no matter what happens in between, and think that he has “practiced.” I know. I’ve heard it hundreds of times, and if you have a child in music lessons, I’ll bet you’ve heard it too. Explicit instruction means addressing many basic questions that an expert takes for granted: What does practicing look like? How many times a week should you practice? For how long should you practice? How do you know if you have practiced enough? How do you know if you have practiced well? Similarly, not all first students arrive at university knowing how to study. Many students would benefit from explicit instructions about learning and studying (e.g., What does studying look like? How do you know when you’ve studied enough? I’ve gone over my notes a few times – is that studying? Etc.

Know that students can’t learn it all at once. A good violin teacher knows that you can’t correct a student’s bow arm while you’re adjusting the left hand position, improving intonation, working on rhythm, teaching new notes, and refining dynamics. In any given lesson, the violin teacher chooses to let some things go while focusing on one particular aspect of playing otherwise the student will become too overwhelmed to take in any information at all. Suzuki teachers know that you always start by pointing out something positive about the student’s playing and that you can’t focus only on the errors. Students need encouragement. I think this is true at university as well. Becoming a good writer takes years and novice writers will likely continue to make several mistakes while at the same time improving one or two specific aspects of their writing. While giving feedback on written assignments, it’s important to acknowledge the positive aspects – that’s more encouraging that facing a sea of red that highlights only the errors.

Even if you didn’t take piano lessons as a child and even if have registered your 6 year old for hockey rather than violin lessons, I hope you’ll find these lessons from the music studio applicable to the university classroom.

 Photo privided by Samuel Cuenca under a Creative Commons license.

Keys for a TA to Succeed in the Classroom — Aser Gebreselassie

TutorialAs an undergraduate student currently in my third year of ERS at the University of Waterloo, I have had the chance to interact with various types of Teaching Assistants (TAs) over the course of my studies, whether it be in labs, tutorials, in class, via email, or having assignments marked by them. There are plenty of great stories about TAs whom I have had in the past, and unfortunately, a few stories of some questionable TAs as well. Being a successful TA consists of many different aspects, but the three characteristics that I appreciate in a TA is their ability to relate to students, knowledge of the course content, and an ability to communicate effectively and efficiently.

Relating to your students helps build trust between the TA and the student which helps to manage the classroom effectively, as the students will have respect for the TA. Quick but effective activities which I have personally seen in my classes include icebreakers during the first day of meeting your students, as well as having a sense of humour and giving out a positive vibe. A few new things I learnt during the Building Rapport with Students workshop earlier this week was that maintaining positive body language throughout the session gives the students a positive impression about yourself, and learning the student’s names as soon as possible to help develop trust and understanding between the TA and the student.

Knowledge of course content is also key. Most people think that their TAs are those who have taken the course before and have done fairly well in it. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes the TA may never have taken the course, or sometimes they didn’t complete their undergraduate degree in the same faculty as the course they are TAs for. If this is the case, doing the readings and making detailed notes would help a lot. The students understand that a TA is a student as well, and if you as a TA can’t answer a question but are willing to do some research to find the right answer, students find that extremely helpful and are willing to wait to get a right answer, instead of getting a wrong or incomplete answer immediately.

Being able to communicate successfully can make or break the trust and respect that students have for a TA. Setting basic rules on the first day can help a TA significantly. I have had TAs in the past tell us a couple of ground rules: for example, they only will respond to emails during business hours (9 am to 5pm), and that students should not email questions about a majoTutorial 2r assignment the night before it is due as it will be too late to get a response of any value. Prompt responses and setting ground rules can help alleviate pressure from students, and can significantly help boost a TA and student’s relationship. Sometimes TAs respond weeks, even months after receiving an email and it destroys any rapport that they have built with the student.

Lastly, my pet peeve: it is frustrating when students compare grades after an evaluation, and have written two very similar things on their paper, but get two completely different marks. The TA has now lost a lot of the positive feelings that they may have gained over the semester by being inconsistent. Both students are now alienated and concerned, and will go through every little detail of their evaluation to make sure nothing else was missed. Both students will come to the TA with many concerns about their marks. Being consistent, whether it be giving both those students an 85% or a 55%, will save a TA a massive headache.

 

Making Teaching and Learning Visible at the University of Waterloo’s Teaching and Learning Conference – Julie Timmermans and Crystal Tse

owl

 It is moving and inspiring to see 250 colleagues gathered for a day of thinking and talking about teaching and learning.  This year’s Teaching and Learning Conference took place on Thursday, April 30th, with over 200 people from the University of Waterloo and numerous colleagues from neighbouring universities participating in over forty research-based and practice-based sessions.

Vice-President, Academic and Provost, Ian Orchard, set the tone for the day: he opened the Conference by underscoring the value placed on teaching and developing as teachers at the University of Waterloo:

“The University of Waterloo values excellence in teaching, just as it does in research. […] Investing time in developing teachers is a vital aspect of fostering a culture that values teaching and learning and that develops teaching in a community environment.  This conference helps foster community, and makes the sharing of teaching experiences possible, creating a community of scholars of teaching.”

The theme of this year’s Conference was “Making Teaching and Learning Visible.” There is indeed much about teaching and learning that remains unintentionally hidden and unspoken.  And so, through this theme, we explored what we can do to clarify and communicate the processes underlying teaching and learning so that learners and teachers work towards the same outcomes.  We explored challenging and provocative questions, such as “How do we know what students already know, what they don’t know, and what they have learned?” and “How can we make the thinking underlying our instructional decisions more explicit for ourselves, our students, and our colleagues?”. Each of the day’s panel discussions, workshops, and presentations attempted to reveal and communicate assumptions or practices in some way.

Presidents’ Colloquium Keynote Speaker, Dr. Linda Nilson, pursued this theme in her talk, “Making Your Students’ Learning Visible: How Can We Know What They Know?”. During this session, Linda delved into one of the most common yet challenging questions we have as teachers: How can we gather evidence of and measure student learning? She advocated for setting measurable learning outcomes in our courses, and for ensuring alignment between these outcomes, teaching and learning strategies, and assessment methods. Drawing on examples from across the disciplines, Linda provided concrete strategies for measuring and interpreting gains in student learning.  If you’re intrigued by these ideas, you are welcome to download the slides and handouts from the keynote session, available through the Conference website.

A highlight of the Conference was the “Igniting Our Practice” session.  Two inspiring and award-winning University of Waterloo professors, Gordon Stubley, Associate Dean, Teaching in Engineering, and Jonathan Witt, Teaching Fellow in Biology, each taught us a concept from their courses and, in doing so, drew us into the ways of thinking of their disciplines. Does the impressive display of feathers in the tail of the male peacock serve an evolutionary purpose?  What do pre-tests reveal about fourth-year students’ knowledge of particular concepts in their third fluid dynamics course?   Through vivid examples, Gordon and Jonathan led us to think about designing teaching for student learning, and how we might integrate these ideas into our own teaching.

The Conference closed with a wine and cheese reception where colleagues had the opportunity to connect over a drink and some food.   Associate Vice President, Academic (AVP-A), Mario Coniglio closed the Conference, thanking people for their commitment to enhancing teaching and learning.  He also took time to recognize the many people who had contributed to the Conference, including the participants and presenters, the Teaching Fellows, members of the Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE), people who chaired sessions and provided technical support, Creative Services, as well as FAUW.  At CTE, we’re particularly grateful for the vision and financial support AVP-A, Mario Coniglio, and Vice-President, Academic and Provost, Ian Orchard.

And now, it’s time to pursue the ideas that were sown at the Conference. And these actions have meaning and impact.  As Ian Orchard said,

 “All that you do as individuals allows students to be successful, allows teachers to be successful, and, if individuals are successful, the community is successful and therefore the University as a whole can be successful.  Thank you for all you do.”

For details about this year’s Conference, please visit the Conference website.  Planning for next year’s event has already begun!

(Image credit: Sanatanu Sen)
Crystal Tse

Crystal Tse

Crystal is the Educational Research Associate at the CTE where she contributes to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning work and to program evaluation. She received her PhD in social psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo, where her research involved applying psychological theory to inform evidence-based interventions that address different social issues.

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Getting The Most Out of Your Studying – Kelly Stone, CTE Co-op Student

Most people view lecture and lab time as the largest part of learning; however, it’s not what students spend the most time on. For me, studying takes up the majority of my time and I’ve been learning how to optimize it. Throughout my education, I’ve been introduced to different ways of studying, all of which I have tried at least once; you never know what works best for you until you do. Since midterms are currently in full swing, and exams are about one month away, I thought I’d share my opinion on these various types of study methods.

Plate of Smarties arranged by colour.During first year, living in residence meant study buddies were available at all times. Having other people to study with can be quite valuable, especially in courses that are heavy in memorization. By talking through concepts with other people, you become aware of topics you are unsure of. Becoming aware of the materials you haven’t memorized allows you to refocus your efforts for better use of your time. Afterwards, I find meeting with your study buddies again the night before the midterm or exam is extremely beneficial – especially when you introduce food incentives. In first year I took Introductory Zoology, a course that required a lot of memorization regarding phylum names. Two roommates and I created our own study game the day before our final exam. We purchased Smarties and separated them onto a plate based on their colour, which we gave phylum names, producing eight groups with nine per group; therefore you could choose a question from a phylum up to three times. By introducing food incentives, and categorizing those incentives, my roommates and I ensured we reviewed materials from all of the relevant phyla we needed to know.

Despite the benefits of studying with other people, some courses are difficult to collaborate on, such as Chemistry or Mathematics. For courses such as these, working through practice problems is the typical method. But there are other ways to ensure you actually understand the problems, instead of memorizing numbers. Whenever I have to use equations to solve problems presented to me, I break down the process instead of focusing on the numbers. For this I write an equation on my whiteboard that I am expected to know. I then isolate each component and talk out loud about what it is and how to recognize what piece of information from a question would be used. After talking through what is used in an equation, I work through step-by-step how the numbers are used, especially in classes such as Mathematics. By breaking down the process for solving problems, I am better able to answer questions on exams because I understand the steps I need to go through, not just the numbers from practice problems.

In addition, I have tried other study techniques for when I am unable to study with other people. The first way I have tried, and still use to this day, are flash cards and – what I have called – flash tables. The benefit of these mainly comes from making them. For terms, making flashcards ensures I cover all those discussed in lecture, with a definition worded in my own way that makes sense to me. For concepts or groupings, such as phyla, I create “flash tables” where I write a profile for that concept; this includes the name of the concept, a general explanation, how it’s used, how it’s related to other concepts, and any defining characteristics. The process of creating these “flash” papers helps me to determine what I know, what I sort of know, and what I need to focus on.

Life cycle of a jellyfishAlong with creating these “flash” study resources, I incorporate mnemonics into my studying. During Introductory Zoology, we were expected to memorize reproductive cycles of various phyla; that meant we had to know the names of the life stages. For example, the jellyfish lifecycle consists of five distinct stages – Planula Larva, Scyphistoma, Strobila, Ephyra, and Mature Medusa. With help from my roommates, we created a mnemonic to remember the stages, based on the first letters: People Love Seeing Stars Even Monday Morning. Needless to say, I still haven’t forgotten the life stages of the jellyfish!

Of course, with every successful discovery, there are always some failures. A high school teacher suggested I record myself saying my lecture notes. Then, with these recordings, suggested I listen to one lecture each night before falling asleep since short-term memory is transferred into long term overnight. Since I was still determining the best study method for myself, I decided to give it a try. I found saying my notes out loud as if I were presenting the material to be quite helpful; however, listening to my recordings later was not as beneficial as I thought it would be. Personally, by the time I reached my bed, I no longer had the concentration to absorb the material. But it was an interesting experience that led me to talking out loud instead of simply reading my notes.

In the end, studying is different for everyone and we all gravitate towards methods that might not work for someone else. I have learned that verbal studying is extremely beneficial and to never be afraid to ask someone else to explain an unclear concept. Collaboration helps you determine the topics you may have missed or perhaps interpreted incorrectly. With all that said, happy studying and good luck on your midterms and exams!

Kelly Stone

Kelly Stone

Special Projects Assistant for the Centre for Teaching Excellence for the duration of the Winter 2015 term. 2nd year Biology co-op undergraduate student at the University of Waterloo. Currently a member of the UW Hip Hop club. I love baking, playing guitar, reading and blogging!

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You can’t see me — The Spotlight Effect – Sherry Lin, CTE Co-op Student

spotlightThinking back to before I can remember, my peers and educators have identified me as a shy and quiet individual: slightly inadequate in class participation, but excelling with regard to listening skills. After acknowledging this about myself and given time to reflect, I have since been challenging myself to become more outspoken and pushing to leave my anxiety-neutral condition — to step outside of my comfort zone.

Just last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to sit in on and participate in the CTE Fundamentals of University Teaching workshop “Teaching with Confidence”, facilitated by Angela Nyhout. Participants were able to reflect on aspects they were less confident about in their teaching methods, and discuss why this may be so. One of the most relatable and interesting concepts I took away from this workshop was the social psychological aspect of confidence.

I believe we have all felt it at some point in time: the feeling we’ve coined as ‘butterflies in our stomachs’. The psyche holds much more power than we think, and this reflects in our actions; it could be in the form of an uncharacteristic stutter, quivering of the voice, or an uncontrollable tremor of the hands. These behaviours are a result of what we call “The Spotlight Effect.”

The Spotlight Effect phenomenon refers to the tendency to overestimate the attention you are receiving from the audience you are interacting with. One is left with the constant awareness brought on by a glaring forehead zit, or the paranoia about whether or not there are pieces of spinach stuck in between the teeth. Were your hands too clammy when you shook the ones of your future employer? What about the possibility of a mustard stain on your shirt, when giving an important speech in a sea of attentive eyes? If we take a moment to think about it, each and every one of us can probably recall a situation where self-consciousness took over and the impulse to fold into yourself and self-destruct, or run away, arose.

Speaking to a few participants in the workshop, I realized anxiety and self-consciousness is a trait we all hold – it’s just that some people have it to a greater extent than others. Regardless of whether you are far skewed on the extrovert side of the scale, or a shy and introverted individual, feelings of anxiety and self-consciousness are universal, and do tend to occur now and again. I also learned that, to my dismay, anxiety will likely follow me to postgraduate studies and beyond. Fortunately, through taking this workshop, I have discovered ways to combat this predicament. The key, as I had always known but had trouble acknowledging, is practice and experience. More practice will provide one with more experience. By accumulating more experience, confidence will naturally be boosted through familiarity and routine. Other tips and tricks include eating something small or chewing a piece of gum. This will trick the mind into thinking that if one is eating, there is no imminent danger. Without the threat of danger, it will rid the mind of the “fight or flight” adrenaline response that may kick in.

Narcissistically speaking, we are the centres of our own universes and therefore we are apprehensive of judgment from others. Unfortunately, we are also our own worst critics. In the clashing of these two fates, we tend to beleaguer ourselves regarding our letdowns, and overlook or make light of our achievements. We subconsciously believe that the only way to feel accomplished, that we did a job well, is to please everybody. I think something we often forget is that we spend so much time worrying about ourselves that we do not have time to worry about others. The figurative double-edged sword runs both ways, in that others likely do not find the time to worry about you. Thus, it turns full circle. You can’t see me; so I can be confident, because there is nothing to worry about.

Media and the affective domain – Veronica Brown

I am still letting last week’s thoughts about expressive activities leading to expressive outcomes rummage around in my head. For now, I’d like to talk about the value of media in instruction and assessment of the affective domain. I’d like you to take a few minutes to look at the following three examples.

Example 1 – Tacoma Narrows Bridge

First, watch this video. It shows the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse in 1940.

The image of that bridge oscillating has stayed with me all these years. We watched that film (yes, this was pre-YouTube and I’m almost positive it was a film) in high school physics. For me, it was life-changing. Sounds a bit dramatic but I could never look at a structure the same way again. Even watching it today, a thousand questions run through my mind. How did that happen? Not just the physics of it but the human side, too. Who reviewed all the specs? How did this possibly happen? Can concrete actually move like that? Why did that car get stuck there? Was anyone hurt?  But as I sit at my computer writing this blog, a different question comes to mind.

Why did my physics teacher show us that film?

Example 2 – Rural and Urban Life in England

Now, I would like you to perform two Google searches for images (just click the links below to see my search’s results).

Search 1: 17th Century rural England      http://bit.ly/1iUw3JL

Search 2: 19th Century Tenements         http://bit.ly/1g0ZRof

How do you feel when you see those two images? Where would you rather live? Why? This idea of sharing images for comparison was presented by Linda Hunter at the Teaching & Learning Innovations (TLI) Conference at the University of Guelph (2012). She used two images to help students immediately see the difference between two time periods. She also played examples of the music of the eras (the abstract of her presentation, Making Connections Across Disciplines: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Interpreting Art, Music and Film for Sociological Theory Applications,  is available on the TLI web site). While we might understand that it was crowded in London in the late 19th century, how quickly we might be able to appreciate just how different it was from rural life 200 years earlier. These images and the music served as an introduction to a lesson but could also become an assessment tool. By asking students to find images to represent that era then comparing the images through a written component, students are able to demonstrate their knowledge of the era while also reaching into the affective domain. Another option would be to have students create something to represent both eras, such as a piece of art, a photo, a video, or some other piece.

Example 3 – Durham City Baths

Finally, I’d like you to look at the images in this article, Adventures of a Serial Trespasser. In particular, check out Photo 20 then compare it to the photos on Rob Birrell’s photography blog – Durham City Baths. I can imagine asking students to review both photos in any number of disciplines. They could prompt a discussion in any number of disciplines, such as planning, recreation and leisure, sociology, fine arts, engineering, economics, or environment and resource studies. To encourage students to look beyond the simplistic view that it is an old building that’s falling apart, why not ask students to defend the city’s decision to abandon this facility in order to build a new recreation complex. Other questions could encourage students to consider diversity, societal impact, socio-economic factors, historical factors, political implications, etc.. A broad question, such as What factors might influence the city’s decision not to repair the existing facility?, could provide opportunities to assess whether students are even aware of these factors. In this case, media can be used to encourage students to take a broader view of the scenario beyond addressing only the knowledge pieces.

Veronica

Feb25blog

 

 

Veronica Brown

Veronica Brown

As Senior Instructional Developer, Curriculum & Quality Enhancement, Veronica Brown provides oversight and facilitative support for departmental and Faculty-wide curriculum planning initiatives. She also leads the development and implementation of the Centre’s assessment plan for understanding the impact and quality of our work.

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Do students know what good teaching is? — Dr. Mark Morton

Do students know what good teaching is?

That’s a question that often arises when I meet with instructors to explore ways of enhancing their teaching. It’s also a question that must occur to all instructors every time they review the results of their end-of-term course evaluations (no one, after all, gets perfect evaluations!).

The question might be restated this way: although students undoubtedly know what they like from an instructor, do they always know what they need?

The answer, I think, is that most of them do (but not all the time). I’ve reached this conclusion after reading through the submissions to this year’s Loving to Learn Day contest. That contest asked students (and others) to respond to this question: “What makes a teacher a really GREAT teacher?”

I received about 200 responses to this question from students ranging from grade three to undergraduates. All of the responses were genuinely thoughtful. Not a single one of the responses included glib or flippant statements such as “Teachers who end class early and give easy tests are great!”

More interesting, though, was the extent to which the students’ responses echoed the best practices for instructors that have been identified and articulated by experts in higher education. Chickering and Gamson’s “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education,” which was developed in 1987, is one such best-practices rubric. Here are those seven principles:

  1. Encourages contact between students and faculty.
  2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students.
  3. Uses active learning techniques.
  4. Gives prompt feedback.
  5. Emphasizes time on task.
  6. Communicates high expectations.
  7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

I seriously doubt whether any of the students who participated in the Loving to Learn Day contest have ever heard of Chickering and Gamson. Yet in the 200 responses that I received from them, each of those seven principles was articulated many times. In fact, it’s easy to recreate Chickering and Gamson’s best practices by extracting passages from the students’ responses:

  1. “I really like a teacher who is willing to spend extra time focusing, one on one with a student to benefit their learning. I think it is admirable when a teacher will go out of their way and uses their own time to help a student or to talk to them about personal issues.”
  2. “An awesome teacher is original, kind, fun, brave, courageous oh my I just could go on forever and they need to be wise, smart of course but they sometimes do not have to be smart because they and us kids learn better by learning together.”
  3. “My favourite teacher would be one that teaches subjects hands-on, and lets you try new things. They would let you experiment, and you wouldn’t have to do exactly what they do.”
  4. “Also, handing back marked work fast makes it easy for a student to find out what they need to fix for similar future work.”
  5. “A great teacher is one who sets clear due dates/objectives for homework/projects and makes sure not to hand out more than a student can handle.”
  6. “A great teacher sets high expectations and doesn’t give up on their students.”
  7. “All teachers should respect their student’s different learning styles and know how to bend their teaching routine to help the students learn in a way that is comfortable for them.”

Based on the 200 students’ responses, it seems to clear to me that students do know what they need from an instructor. They know, in other words, what makes an instructor a really GREAT instructor. At least some of the time.

The reason I add this qualifier – “some of the time” – is that these students obviously wrote their responses when they were actively and intently reflecting on the qualities of great instructors. They didn’t write them when they were in the middle of a dry biology lecture, nor did they write them as they were trying to study for two midterms on the same night. Ask them the same question in those circumstances, and the responses might start to include comments like “great teachers liven up the class with jokes” and “great teachers give easy midterms.”

In other words, what students’ think about the characteristics of a great teacher is probably shaped by the immediate circumstances of those students. In a similar way, my thoughts about food are influenced by my immediate circumstances. I do, for example, have a pretty good understanding of nutritional best practices – that is, I know what I need to eat and not eat to stay healthy. But if I’m stressed out or overly hungry, all that goes out the window. Best practices become a bag of chips or a chocolate bar.

This recognition of the role of context is important, I think, because it means that if we want to ensure that students understand what good teaching is, we don’t really need to teach it to them. They already know what makes a great teacher. Instead, we need to teach them coping skills or meta-cognitive skills so that they can keep an awareness of that knowledge in their minds when they are in less than ideal circumstances – like when they are in the middle of a dry lecture, or when they are tired or stressed out but still need to study for an exam.

So, if you’re an instructor, I think you can trust that your students, deep down, already know what makes an instructor great. If you want to bring that knowledge to the surface, just give them the time and opportunity, once in a while, to take a deep breath and reflect on what they really need from their instructors. And, while you’re at it, you might also ask them to reflect on what they need to do to become great learners.

Incidentally, here are more extracts that I’ve taken from the 200 responses that students submitted:

  • I enjoy teachers that don’t always stick to the teaching schedule. They wander off topic to enable further learning and understanding of a topic or lesson. They encourage their students to dig deeper and learn more.
  • Creativity is essential to teaching because it keeps learning fresh, and students open-minded. It’s easy for teachers to make students sit in rows, and give identical worksheets to students, but a great teacher can inspire learning, inspire creativity.
  • I think a great teacher should take the time and effort to remember important things about a student’s life.
  • What makes a teacher a great teacher is when they always know your level of intelligence so they know what work to give to you. They should challenge you, but not too much.
  • I think a good teacher is one that never lets you give up. They’re patient and happy, they tell you “You Can!” when you think you can’t. They are there for you, they let you take the time you need, and they help you all the way through.
  • The teacher should make learning seem fun and comfortable. Not necessarily easy, but it shouldn’t seem like the hardest thing ever.
  • Teachers need to keep an open mind. Students differ in everything from gender and race to personality and sexual orientation. If a teachers push stereotypes on them, they could cause a lot of stress.
  • To be a good teacher you have to believe that you are good at teaching.
  • A great teacher respects their students. They are free to think whatever they want.
  • For teachers to be great, they have to possess some key qualities; patience, kindness, a desire to learn, a love for their job, and a sense of humour.
  • Great teachers choose teaching because they thrive on helping students and they have a passion for learning.
  • Another thing that makes a really GREAT teacher is that they need to have appreciation for everything you do. If you help another student they should take that into account.
  • Teachers need to have a sense of humour. Humour can keep students engaged in their learning. Having a less serious side makes teachers more human and approachable.
  • A great teacher does what is best for the student, whatever that might be.
  • What makes a teacher REALLY great? To me, it’s a teacher with passion. When your teacher comes through that door in the morning to the moment they leave, they are excited to teach, they are excited to enrich our brains with knowledge.
  • A good teacher is always well prepared and organized. They are a master of their subject, and would make their instructions clear to all students.
  • A great teacher doesn’t force their ways upon you.
  • We need the kind of people who will recognize the students that try so hard just to get a C. Teachers that care. We don’t need great teachers. We need great people.
  • The best teacher is one that teaches you the harmony between everything good and bad. One who helps you grow as a human being.
  • In twenty years you might not recall that your math teacher explained fractions well. But you might remember that she brought in a pie to show you.
  • A great teacher needs to be willing to try new things. To try a different lesson, to try a different approach, and to take risks. They need to be willing to experiment, to have successes, to have failures, and to learn from their experiences.
  • A great teacher is someone who understands that each student has different strengths and weaknesses, and from there aims to help them reach their individual needs. They never focus on grade comparison, but rather on the progress a student is making.
  • A great teacher would have to be able to teach in different way, because not everyone learns the same as everyone else.
  • A great teacher never keeps knowledge to themselves. When they’ve learned something new from their experiences they make sure that their students are learning from them as well. For this reason I would describe every great teacher I’ve ever had as generous. They are people who are always willing to share their wisdom with others.
  • To me a teacher is someone that helps you discover and guides you toward your dream.

And if you want more, you can read all of the responses to “What makes a teacher a GREAT teacher?” at the Loving to Learn Day site.

Mark Morton

Mark Morton

As Senior Instructional Developer, Mark Morton helps instructors implement new educational technologies such as clickers, wikis, concept mapping tools, question facilitation tools, screencasting, and more. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence, Mark taught for twelve years in the English Department at the University of Winnipeg. He received his PhD in 1992 from the University of Toronto, and is the author of four books: Cupboard Love; The End; The Lover's Tongue; and Cooking with Shakespeare.

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