First Week Reflections

Socrates is quoted as saying “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  These are strong words and a powerful idea.  One of the major goals of the Teaching Tip series is to encourage faculty members to undertake regular critical self-assessments.  For the most part, the tips are not intended to be prescriptive, but are based on the belief that with critical reflection and the input of students and colleagues, teaching can be both more enjoyable and of higher quality.

In this tip, we ask you to think about the start of your recent classes.  Are you and your students up for a good semester?  Thanks to Dannie Brown, Shannon School of Business, for sending along the basis for this teaching tip (referenced below).

Please give some thought to the following ideas:

1. Have you involved students?

Letting students know right from the outset that they will be active participants seems like a good approach.

2. Have you identified the value and importance of the subject?

Not all students come to all classes with a clear idea of why your subject is important. You might need to help them understand the significance of the course. The sooner this is done, the sooner the students will be ready to invest time and energy in the task of learning the subject matter.

3. Have you set expectations?

This can involve such things as what you consider appropriate amounts of study time and homework for the class, the importance of turning homework in on time, expectations about in-class behaviour, and how much interaction among students is desired. Have you asked students about their expectations of you?

4. Did you establish rapport?

Almost any class will be more enjoyable for both the teacher and the students if they know each other a bit.

5. Did youreveal something about yourself that will help the students understand your enthusiasm for the subject matter?

Sometimes students can relate to a faculty member more productively if they can see him or her as a human being, i.e., as something more than just an authority figure or subject matter expert.

6. Did you establish your own credibility?

Sometimes this happens automatically, but at other times students need to know about the work experience, travel experience, or research and publications you have in an area. Having this knowledge can help students gain confidence that the "teacher knows what she or he is talking about."

7. What is the "climate" for the class?

Different teachers prefer different classroom climates: intense, relaxed, formal, personal, humourous, serious, etc. Whatever climate you want, you should try to establish this early and set the tone for the rest of the semester.

8. Have you provided the necessary administrative information?

This often takes the form of going through the syllabus, but might include other expectations as well, such as what your policies are regarding attendance, late papers, make-up exams, snow-days, etc.

9. Did you introduce the subject matter and describe how the course fits into the students’ program(s)?

Generally this introduction will be facilitated by starting with some kind of overview of the subject.

  • What is it?
  • What are the parts of the subject?
  • How is it connected to other kinds of knowledge?
  • What are the next steps, after this course?


This tip is based on a brief paper by L. Dee Fink of the University of Oklahoma Instructional Development Program, who wrote about activities for the first day of classes.That tip is available here: