In a few weeks I will wrap up my third semester teaching classes at a university. When I started last year, I worried a lot about whether or not the students would like the class. Would it even be useful? Would they laugh at my so-called “dry humor?”

I soon realized you don’t have to put that much into it to be a decent college teacher. Students generally appreciate anything you do to engage them or to make the course meaningful.

While I am NOT that skilled at lecturing, for example, my students (for the most part) really enjoy my classes. Not to boast (well, maybe to boast a little), but my class is often among their favorites (on my evaluations for the first semester, I ranked in the 81st percentile in comparison to other classes university-wide).

I try to make sure that the lectures are brief and engaging, that group work involves individual accountability and meaningful tasks (and NO group papers!), and use relevant video clips to discuss course topics. I try to be a real and accessible person. I assign and expect hard work when the work is relevant. If half the class is distracted or asleep, I take it as my fault. I also don’t read to the class from impossibly endless PowerPoint slides.

I have had a handful of really great professors. Many others have been good enough. Some professors, however, either don’t know what they’re doing or don’t care. Some classes are meaningless, useless, and dull. Some teachers are great people and just need some help to improve. Some topics are just difficult to teach.

  • What do you think makes the difference? Why are some professors so woefully inadequate and others so engaging and effective?
  • What are some of the BEST things about your college courses? What are some of the worst activities?
  • What are/were some of the WORST things about your classes, or about college courses in general? What kinds of activities do good teachers use?
  • What is the difference between an “okay” class and a great one?