First Class Activity: The Best and Worst Class Ever

(I haven’t actually done this activity with my students yet, but we do come to some similar ground rules with our own guided discussion questions on expectations.)

From in Teaching Professor Blog

Best and Worst Classes I love this quick and easy activity. On one section of the blackboard I write: “The best class I’ve ever had” and underneath it “What the teacher did” and below that “What the students did.” On another section I write “The worst class I’ve ever had” (well, actually I write, “The class from hell”) and then the same two items beneath. I ask students to share their experiences, without naming the course, department or teacher, and I begin filling in the grid based on what they call out…”

On Day 1 in my classes, I put up 3 sheets of chart paper:

  1. On the first, I have written “What do I expect from you?”
  2. On the second, I have written “What do you expect from me?”
  3. On the third, “What do you expect from each other?”

My expectations are already typed out in a document that I post online for my students, but we summarize the list into a few basic themes. 1. I expect my students to come, on time and prepared, for every lecture and lab session that term. 2. I also expect my students to learn more about their scholastic strengths. This includes: getting the most out of the textbook, organizing their school/work/personal schedules, discovering their personal note-taking style (often with guiding handouts provided for each lecture), and developing efficient study habits to help with the rest of their academic journey.

Finally, 3. I expect my students to ask questions about the material, and I explain that this is the best way to learn anything. I also ask my students to promise that they will never say “this might be a stupid question…” before they ask anything. Like an after-school television special, I truly believe that there is no such thing as a stupid question. How else are you going to learn? I even ask them to sign their name next to this rule as a contract (written on their Teaching and Learning Plan).

My students’ expectations of me usually include:

  • Respect
  • Smile and be approachable
  • Make classes as fun as possible
  • Answer questions directly (not with “what do you think?”)
  • Provide clear instructions/expectations
  • Suggest study tips or provide reviews before a test
  • Return tests/assignment marks as quickly as possible

I also sign this piece of paper and promise that I will do my best to live up to their expectations (so long as they all promise to do their best as well).

My students’ expectations of each other almost always starts off with “be quiet while the teacher is talking”. At the start of the term, this is usually not a problem. In the last few weeks, however, I find that this guideline gets forgotten. I try to break up my 3-hour lecture blocks with a variety of teaching styles, videos, handouts, practice questions (often including partner/group activities throughout the session), but in an introductory class I occasionally have to “chalk and talk” with projector slides as an added feature. When students get chatty, it drags out the lecture and, unfortunately, often means there is less time for active learning activities. This certainly doesn’t help to keep those students engaged…

Students also suggest that their classmates should: be patient with questions, be willing to help, and share equally with group work.

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