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Teaching Thursday: The First Week of Class

It’s the first week of class and I already feel like I am behind! Since some of my students have discovered this blog (it’s inevitable, right?), I thought I was post up my five tips for success in my classes.  I think that these things are generalizable:

1. Come to class.  I seem to inspire students to skip class.  This used to frustrate me, but now I view this as a kind of formal resistance, which I admire enough to take on the role of “the man”.  I’ve blogged on this before here and here.

2. Take notes.  I have had students tell me that they don’t need to take notes because they can remember everything.  This is impossible and a cover for laziness.  Note taking is the first step in learning because it forces us to interpret and condense what we are hearing in class.

3. Do the readings. My classes depend on the careful reading of primary sources.  These form the basis for in-class discussions, writing assignments, and exams.  If you don’t do the reading, you won’t get it.

4. Work with your fellow students.  If you can’t figure out how to work together in the classroom, the library, or the quad, then do it online; social media applications provide a great platform for collaboration between students.  For all its faults, Blackboard has baked in an increasingly robust set of collaborative tools that I am more than willing to deploy to allow the students to work together.

5. Talk to me.  If you are struggling or if you feel like you are beginning to struggle, talk to me.  Despite recent reviews which rank University of North Dakota faculty among the least accessible in the country, my door is almost always open.  So come and talk about how you can do better in class.

I leave off this list obvious things like doing assignments, turning them on time, and taking test seriously, because most of our students understand this kind of thing. It’s the more mundane and unstructured expectations (attendance, note taking, reading) that students struggle to prioritize.

Good luck in the new semester!

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