Thinking About the Start of the Semester

As the air outside starts to cool, we begin to focus on the Fall semester and introducing our courses to the incoming class of students. You might be wondering what to keep in mind for the first day. Traditionally, students sit down and you review the syllabus on the first day and then they leave (sometimes a bit early.)

I would like to suggest making better use of the time on the first day by doing the following:

  1. Invite students to engage with you in a discussion of the syllabus.
    Have students divide into small groups. Each student within the group is assigned a portion of the syllabus to review and then have groups fill out a worksheet together about the specifics of the course. This allows students to talk with each other about the syllabus and later ask well thought out questions that their fellow students couldn’t answer.
  2. Clarify the expectations for classroom conduct.
    Ask students to make a list of behaviors that disrupt their own learning during class. They could do this individually and then create a list together that you agree upon as a code of conduct.
  3. Be clear in articulating the mode of communication you prefer.
    How do you like to get questions and how quickly you will reply to an email from a student or a discussion post in Blackboard. For example, students are on their phones so frequently checking email, they may expect that you are like that too. (Some faculty are like that, however, if that isn’t you, set the parameters.) For example, let students know if you only check in the morning and evening and that they should allow 24 hours before contacting you again. Also, if you want then to contact a Teaching Assistant first, be sure that information is clear to them.
  4. Be enthusiastic about the course!
    This is the first impression students will have of your course and how much you enjoy teaching it. Share your love of your content, because instructor enthusiasm is often cited by students as a catalyst for their learning.
  5. Have students create a personal goal for the course.
    After going over the course goals and the content of the course, have the students write down what they would like to personally get out of the course. They could record this writing on Blackboard in a journal, or as an assignment. Revisit this goal over the semester and ask them to track how they are progressing with it and if they need any additional resources from you to accomplish it.

We hope you enjoy your first week of class. Stop by to see us at the CTL during Dr Is In with any questions or feedback about the first week.


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