1. At my college, faculty teaching schedules vary greatly, making it difficult to find a time when we can get together to chat about our work. We therefore created a virtual Faculty Lounge site within our learning management system (Blackboard) where faculty can post documents, web links, copies of professional development presentations they have given, etc. The site also includes a discussion board where faculty can share their experiences and wisdom with one another. –Peggy Rolfsen, Faculty, Biology Department, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Cincinnati, OH

2. The most important things that successful teachers/ trainers do right is involving the learners actively in both the learning process and the practical application. Successful teachers/trainers create an environment where learners feel comfortable to contribute to the planning phase, implementation phase and the review phase of any long term learning project. Where the project is as short as a 2 hour session, the successful trainer outlines the learning strategy intended to be used and provides the opportunity for others to suggest changes and when asked is prepared as far as practical to build those changes in. –John Clark, Faculty, Department of Corrective Services Training Academy, Bateman Western Australia

3. One thing that many faculty do well in the classroom is avoid PowerPoint pitfalls. We keep our slides simple, avoiding excessive décor and distracting colors. We employ the 6×6 industry guideline by making sure that slides have no more than 6 lines of text each with 6 or fewer words. We use PowerPoint to support our words. Slides offer increased clarity, retention, and/or interest for our students and we deliver from brief notes (not from large projection screens). We take the time to learn how to use equipment in classrooms before showing up. We arrive with a back-up plan in case the technology fails. We understand that presenting a speech (classroom lecture) is a process which includes practice. — Kimberly M. Cuny, Director, The University Speaking Center, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, NC

4. Getting students to ask questions can be difficult, even when they look confused. Instead of asking students whether they have questions (when I know they do), I prefer to ask “What are your questions?” I do this to reinforce for students that I expect them to have questions, and that asking their questions is safe. –Gregg Heinrichs, Academic Advisor I, Academic Advising Center, Eastern Michigan University, MI

5. All my communication courses start with name games. One is simply “Ball,” played with one-to-three soft, squishy large balls. We use the ball to throw to each person, learning each person’s name. Then, I add up to three balls in the air at a time. While the balls are flying, students are laughing, dropping balls, and I am learning students’ names. At the end of the semester, students tell me how much they appreciated learning each other’s names, getting to know each other, and that I know them by name. After the exercise, I debrief: “What did we learn about communication from this game?” This activity makes discussing the syllabus a lot more interesting because now they see the connections between what we’ll be doing in the course with this “simple” ballgame. –Christina Barber, Faculty, Communication Studies, Butte College, CA

6. WE listen! — Lillian McDaniel, Coordinator, Transitional Studies, College of San Francisco, CA

7. I teach a transferable career and life planning class. By using videos, guest speakers, lectures and play acting scenarios to present and model good soft and hard work place skills, I encourage students to use college as a lab to perfect these necessary career skills and further develop these skills with job shadows, volunteering and internships as they “try out” careers of interest. My class is structured as a work site. I am the owner of the business and my students are employees. Soft and hard work place skills are embedded in every assignment and group project. –Melody Vaught, Adjunct Faculty, Santiago Canyon College, CA

8. I start each semester discussing ways we will show respect in our class. In addition to their suggestions, I often ask students to address things like appropriate ways to enter a classroom if they arrive late. This exercise seems to set a positive tone for the year and I seldom have to deal with behavior issues. –Pam L. Martin, Division Chair, Education, William Penn University, IA

9. Allow students to take ownership of class dynamics and responsibility for learning by asking the class how to deal with issues such as non-submission or late submission of assignments, perfunctory efforts at peer evaluation, and not participating fully in class discussions. You’ll often find the students are tougher on each other than you might be as the instructor! –Fiona H. Chrystall, Director of Student Success and Faculty, Environmental Science, Lees-McRae College, NC

10. One thing I always do on the first day of class is have the students interview each other. I ask them to discover “What was your fellow student’s worst and best experience in school ever?” Then they introduce their classmate and relate their experiences. This activity helps students see that most everyone has had a bad experience and also perhaps something they are proud of. It helps the class feel like a family. Then I ask them to consider putting their bad experiences in school into an imaginary box in the back of their imaginary closet, cover that experience with a few more boxes and then only bring it out when they need to feel compassionate toward their fellow classmates or any student who is having a bad time. Reflecting on what they are proud of also gives them hope for the future. –Helene Simkin Jara, Tutorial Coordinator, Cabrillo College, CA

11. At the beginning of each semester, I ask my students to think about the best teacher they’ve ever had and list characteristics of that teacher. Of course, students want a teacher who is punctual, enjoys their content area, and is able to make difficult concepts easy to understand. Beyond that, students want a teacher who has clear, high expectations, but also exhibits understanding and flexibility. –Marinela Castaño, Faculty, Nursing, Lone Star College – North Harris, TX

12. Let your students see you. In an online class, upload a photo or two or utilize a streaming video recording of yourself to let students see you as a “live” instructor. This can do wonders for connecting with them during the first week. And an unexpectedly fun result: Many will actually do the same–without being prompted! In a traditional class, don’t be afraid to be seen outside the classroom. Walk the halls, eat in the Student Center, attend a football game . . . students DO enjoy seeing instructors as “people” rather than just “teachers.” –Audrey Wick, Faculty, English and Kinesiology, Blinn College, TX

13. The best things educators do: define student learning outcomes, build meaningful relationships with their students, customize teaching strategies to meet the needs of their students, engage in ongoing assessment of student learning, self-examination/quality of teaching, & course design. –Ronda Hawkins, Program Coordinator, Early Childhood, Sandhills Community College, NC 

To submit your own nomination for “The Best Thing That Educators Do,” click HERE and send your idea (100 words or less).

Forum Image OptionThe Best Things That Educators Do Forum