Embrace Civility in the Classroom

Teaching is a demanding task. Challenges arise at every turn, which makes it an engaging and dynamic occupation. In addition to worrying about content and learning in our classrooms, we also need to be concerned with classroom dynamics and the erosion of civility. When it comes to promoting classroom etiquette and respect, instructors need to lead by example, set expectations and take action when needed. It starts with us and ends with us–so let’s see how to make a difference.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. ~Dalai Lama

More and more instructors are being called on to promote civility and classroom etiquette. Schroeder and Robertson’s article, Civility in the College Classroom, provides a glimpse into the problem of hostility, disrespect and aggression that is occurring in classrooms across the nation.  It is not a reflection of the instructor, the course or students in general. Remember this problem is coming into our classrooms and college campuses from the outside world. Without interventions, the problem can easily get out of hand. While there are often college-level policies and procedures to help, the role of the instructor cannot be understated. Here are some steps that can communicate expectations for student conduct:

Promoting Respect and Civility in the Classroom from the Academy of Art University

  1. Lead by example and model the behaviors you want to see by responding to students in appropriate ways. This means acknowledging really good work and comments from students, encouraging and modeling honest and tactful communication, and letting students know when they have been inappropriate. If a teacher ignores inappropriate comments, students may think the teacher is condoning them, or doesn’t care about students.
  2. Plan, in advance, ways you will address issues of incivility. A timely response is important, and if you have thought the situation and response through, you will be able to respond more effectively. It is often helpful to come up with a hierarchy of responses to potential situations. For example, if a student is talking over you, first make eye contact, and then move near the student and pause, before speaking to him or her in private.
  3. Keep communication open. Make a point to greet your students by name as they come into class. Try to seize on other opportunities to personally connect with all of your students, giving each student equal attention and a sense of value.
  4. Foster unity and inclusion through pair work, group work, and “roundtable” discussion that promotes the mutually respectful sharing of ideas and responsibilities.
  5. Respect students’ privacy and dignity. Never post grades that display the students’ names—only ID numbers. Even when using ID numbers, rearrange the order in which students are listed so that it’s not easily recognizable to others.
  6. Respect students as individuals, taking into account a student’s learning style, strengths, back-ground, and demands on time. This can be done without compromising the high performance standards you have set.

Discussions in online classes require ground rules and clear expectations—make it part of your class in ways that are positive and unambiguous. In the article, Netiquette: Make it Part of Your Syllabus, Mintu-Wimsatt, Kernek and Lozada provide suggestions for the syllabus and wording of rules of engagement in online classes.

Netiquette – Often-Overlooked Policy from Rutger’s may help you craft your own netiquette policy to help prevent issues in online classes

How to communicate and participate in online classes 

University of Missouri: Show me Respect, The Civility Toolkit is chock-full of resources, ideas and commentary on the need for campus and classroom interventions. This clearinghouse of resources has something for every instructor.

Fall Semester at GCC: Welcome back!

As we start making plans for our classes and our students, we have to admire how much has changed in a few short months. During the summer GCC has been thriving, growing and moving in exciting directions. The commitment to students, staff, faculty and the community remains strong, but the tools that allow us to create and foster success have expanded and deepened.

For instance, you have probably noticed the new look of the GCC website—these changes make the site more mobile-friendly. There are new technology and moodle resources to help students and faculty. Plus there are new posts and links at the Teaching and Learning site to help solve problems, see common challenges in new ways and support the vital work that happens at GCC.

But perhaps most importantly, we have new students and many returning students who will be new to each of us. They will look to us to nurture, support and encourage their educational goals. While each of us has our own tried and true methods, the best teachers and staff are those who are looking to improve, innovate and take risks. Now is the ideal time to try something new…. and there are resources to help do that! Read about the moment that Eric Mazur’s teaching changed dramatically.

The start of the semester is exciting—full of transitions and fresh starts. This is the time to “hook” students and get them interested in your class and the work they will do! Take a look at 101 ideas for the First Three weeks of Class.

Syllabus help:

General Tips and Ideas:

Also available on the Teaching and Learning website are ideas for working with diverse populations, motivating students, designing courses and assignments, etc. You can use the search tool or the menu on the right hand side of the site. If there are resources you have to share or ideas for additional resources, please let me know at sheldonl@gcc.mass.edu.

Have a great semester!

Spring Semester: Let’s Get Started!

What an electrifying time of year— a new year and the start of a new semester! The next two weeks are sure to be filled with excitement and questions. Don’t worry! There are many resources to help you be successful in the classroom, with your advisees and colleagues.

Maybe you are teaching a new course or contemplating changes to an existing class. To design your course and overcome common teaching challenges look to Honolulu Community College for articles and useful tips. From first day success to course design, they have it all.  For those teaching a new course, the Step by Step: Planning a College Course can help take your course from concept to a fully-designed course efficiently. Allow yourself plenty of time at each steps to consider what you want students to learning and how to achieve those learning goals in ways that are stimulating and engaging.

You might be wondering how to be better organized and more efficient. Part of teaching is materials management…what to do with all the papers and course materials?! Saving materials from one semester to the next can plunge our offices into chaos. Get a handle on all the detritus of teaching without stress using these helpful tips from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Saving paper and materials is only part of the task…saving time and being efficient is also key.

Perhaps you are considering how to communicate better with your advisees and help them be more successful in their courses. The advisor-advisee relationship is often strengthened through clear communication and enhanced listening skills. Monmouth Community College offers some simple, yet effective tools to help you grow your academic relationships and be a better advisor.  Understanding our role as an advisor can help us to make the most of each interaction with students and be their advocate, mentor, motivating force and cheerleader.

First Day Activities

Nothing sets the stage for the semester like the first day of class! There is so much to cover in addition to course policies and the syllabus. Use the first class meeting to introduce yourself, get to know your students and outline what students will be learning in the coming weeks.  Start with some good advice about the first day!

Get ideas for the first day of class from Carnegie Mellon about the first day. This is you opportunity to make an impression on students and create a sense of trust and belonging among students that will endure for weeks to come. Review the five things you should do on the first day.

Meeting your students is an important part of the process, with so many icebreakers, there is no need to stick with the same old introductions. Simple introduction can be make more fun with a bag of ice breaker questions. Be sure to take time to tell your students about your own interests and what excites you about the course and the content.

Set some goals or adopt these commonsense ideas and sample lesson plan for the first day.