teaching tips

The Best Teaching Advice I Have Received

What makes some teachers more effective than others?

Throughout my teaching career, I have asked numerous colleagues, mentors, and associates for their advice regarding excellent teaching. Here is a sampling of the advice I have gleaned during the past 40 years from outstanding professors:

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prof in lecture hall

Are We Too Preoccupied with Teaching Techniques?

College teachers love techniques. If you’re invited to lead a teaching workshop, you can expect to be asked, “Will you share some good techniques?” Suggest them in the workshop and watch lots of smiling participants write them down with great enthusiasm. Why do we love

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5 things to do on the day of class

Five Things to Do on the First Day of Class

I don’t know if the first day of class is the most important day of the course, but I don’t think many of us would disregard its significance. What we do and how we do it matters. There are lots of good first-day

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Answer-Oriented Students

Getting Answer-Oriented Students to Focus on the Questions

Are your students too answer oriented? Are they pretty much convinced that there’s a right answer to every question asked in class? When preparing for exams, do they focus on memorizing answers, often without thinking about the questions?

To cultivate interest in questions,

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What makes some teachers more effective than others?

Throughout my teaching career, I have asked numerous colleagues, mentors, and associates for their advice regarding excellent teaching. Here is a sampling of the advice I have gleaned during the past 40 years from outstanding professors:

Dear students,

I don’t know why, but I’m getting an abundance of emails from students explaining to me that they are 1 point short of an “A,” and that if I don’t give them that one point, they will: (1) lose their scholarship, (2) get kicked out of their apartment, (3) forfeit their chances for medical school, (4) get cut from the Rugby team, (5) not be able to get married this June, or (6) have to work in a coal mine all summer.

Hey, it’s okay! Just take a chill pill and relax. A hot shower and a full plate of Pad Thai chicken will do you some good. Chase that down with a slurpee. I don’t even care what flavor that slurpee is—just don’t make it a blue one. Blue ones jack up your teeth.

Look . . . if you put $100 in a savings account, you cannot draw out $101— you will be overdrawn. Likewise, if you earned an “A–,” I cannot give you an “A” just for kicks.

I promise: Life will go on, you will graduate from college, you will work in honorable professions, and best of all, you will still drive all your children to soccer practice in a really nice minivan. Life is going to be great.

I have a hard time believing that this class is going to determine your future salary and potential for winning a Nobel Prize, much less who you marry, or if you will live in a nice home.

Cheer up. Eat some ice cream. Live a little! You can do this! But don’t lose any more sleep over an “A” or “A–”! Get some perspective! You will live to see another day! But, that’s just me. Sorry for the rant, but man, did that feel good.

I love you all!

When it comes to teaching, the bottom line is that there is always room for each of us to improve. What two ideas from this list might you investigate further?

Kenneth L. Alford, PhD, is a professor of church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University and a retired active duty Colonel in the U.S. Army.


A version of this article appeared in the Best of the 2019 Teaching Professor Conference report. © Magna Publications. All rights reserved.