Best Practices for Instructors

Undergraduate Education Committee

Instructors are involved in several major roles, including those of teacher, scholar-researcher, and citizen in the University. For the unimpeded performance of teaching, the instructor is guaranteed academic freedom. At the same time, instructors have clear responsibilities to the students and to the institution. Instructors should provide the basic outlines for the learning experience and provide guidance as appropriate. This guidance is most effective when instructors:

Engage in Good Teaching

  1. bring new perspectives and insights to assigned readings and other text materials.
  2. provide students with context for material presented in the course. It is important for instructors to delineate opinion from theory and convey the degree to which ideas have empirical support and consensus in the field.
  3. incorporate past student feedback into current teaching practices where appropriate.

Facilitate Preparation

  1. present a syllabus that clearly identifies the following:
    1. goals and learning objectives of the course
    2. course prerequisites
    3. a schedule of all assignments and examinations and their weight toward the final course grade
    4. clear articulation of ground rules for classroom interaction (e.g., How much active participation is expected of the student? Is attendance required?)
    5. a link to the "best practices" website
    6. policy for grading of late assignments
  2. grade assignments promptly and responsibly, as well as providing open and respectful opportunities for students to discuss their grades with the instructor. Responsible grading includes a distribution of scores that are diagnostic of performance
  3. when possible, avoid prohibitive costs when ordering textbooks and other course materials and only classifying textbooks as required if materials will be used in the course

Know the Policies

  1. provide criteria and grading guidelines for all assignments
  2. remind students of the University's standards for academic integrity and plagiarism policies
  3. adhere to the university course schedule, including beginning and dismissing class at scheduled times. In the event of instructor's absence, structured alternative arrangements will be made (e.g., guest lecture, library tour, etc.)
  4. closely oversee teaching assistants, especially to insure grading uniformity in large classes
  5. know the faculty handbook

Encourage Respectful Communication

  1. adhere to the announced office hour schedule
  2. state a clear policy for contact outside of office hours
  3. convey expected use of technology (e.g., Will you have a blackboard site or web page? If you use powerpoint, are lecture slides available to students, and when will they be available? Will you use a microphone if students cannot hear your voice?)
  4. facilitate regular student evaluations of their teaching methods and materials as a means to create an atmosphere of shared responsibility within the classroom
  5. educate students about the evaluation process and remind students that only signed evaluations are included in the instructor's permanent teaching file

Guideline Sections:

  1. Introduction and Guidelines Home Page
  2. Mission of the Undergraduate Program
  3. Best Practices for Students
  4. Best Practices for Instructors
  5. Special Student Concerns
  6. Where to Get Help and Additional Information