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This advice comes from Dr. Ruth A. Palmquist, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Sciences, University of Texas at Austin

Using your Campus Instructional Consulting Services office

Most universities have some type of instructional support available for full time and part time faculty and also available for graduate students who are asked to teach as part of their graduate support. These places can provide a great many ideas to those who are facing teaching for the first time. They provide workshops on a wide range of topics starting with course development and student assessment through larger issues like campus culture and making use of the university's library. Here are a few more specific ideas on what you might find there. Check on your university web site to find out more specific information about your own Instructional Services Office.

Course Development

Some universities provide a syllabus format, but many do not. If this is your first time teaching, you will want to find some guidance in developing a meaningful outline that students can follow through the term. An instructional services center will have sample syllabi that can provide ideas. Once you have developed the syllabus, someone there can also look it over and spot possible problems, items that students might misunderstand. Hopefully, your department or the university has also prepared some type of Handbook for Teachers; your instructional services unit will have a copy.

Assessing Students

Probably one of the hardest areas for a beginning instructor is assessment. Providing ways for students to demonstrate their learning in a fair and open manner means that students will want to get feedback and know why their performance on an assignment was excellent, good, fair, or poor. There are a large number of ways to assess student's performance from exams, to written assignments, to student self-assessments, and the instructional services personnel can guide you in selecting and creating what will work best for your class.

New Teaching Techniques

There are many ways to involve students actively in classroom learning. Understanding the wide array of techniques may require a hands-on workshop so that you can experience what your students do. Such workshops are frequently offered by you instructional services office.

Managing Instructional Technology

Classrooms can come equipped with a variety of technologies today. Before you face your students on the first day of class, you should know how to handle whatever your classroom provides. Again, you instructional services office can help you and can also possibly order items you wish you had access to but currently don't.

Students' Evaluations of Your Teaching

Any campus will have some form of student evaluation. You should know what this evaluation will look like before you face it. In addition to explaining the standard teaching evaluation questions, the instructional services office can provide a classroom observation. This could be a video camera to let you see yourself as your students do. They can also send someone to observe your teaching, if you feel there is a time when something is not going well; they are on your side, willing to help you figure out what is needed to improve the situation.


About the Author: Ruth has a Ph.D. in Information Transfer from Syracuse University and an MA in Library Science from the University of Iowa. Her research and publications are in the fields of information seeking and information architecture. In over 35 years in academia, Ruth has taught at Syracuse University, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.