Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ten Steps to Successful Teaching

Driven by my laziness desire to be more efficient, I have found ten steps guaranteed to make college teaching easier and more enjoyable:

1. Crush them on the first 2 homework assignments -- those who remain will be good students.

2. When you don't know the answer to a question say it's outside the scope of the class.

3. Teaching evaluations are highly correlated with the grade the students think they will get at the time of filling out the surveys. Make your course easy, then crush them on the final (but see #1).

4. Never admit you're wrong. "I have a PhD, trust me."

5. Schedule office hours at 8am.

6. If you can't learn their names, call them all "dude."

7. Never, under any circumstances, disclose the exact grade cutoffs at the end of the semester. Somebody has to get the highest B, and they won't be happy. "You're lucky you got a B, dude."

8. Finish lecture 10 minutes early every time –- they love this (and they'll never know you love it even more).

9. Easiest way to get rid of whiners without yielding: "I'll take that into account when calculating your final grade."

10. Get good teaching assistants.

(Editorial Note: A modified version of this list originally appeared here.)


  1. On #6: Just do what OS does - never actually set any cutoffs. Only mention of cutoffs in OS syllabus, quote:

    "Cutoff points for grades will be set by the course staff based on an examination of the quality of the work turned in by students near the border. Likewise, individual students, especially those near a cutoff, may receive adjustments upward or downward based on factors such as quality improvement, final exam scores, dramatic differences between partners, or other circumstances relevant to the estimation of the staff of which grade best represents the student's work."

  2. Good point! Another tactic that professors generally use is, the Eclipse Phenomenon! No it has nothing to do with the eclipse IDE.

    They (professaurus tacticus) try out all possible methods to continually overwhelm (eclipse) their students. They do so by adapting "cool" techniques in class.

    One such example is; setting a wrong question for an exam, and then coming by 30 minutes after the exam has started and saying,
    "Guys, there is one wrong question in today's paper, it is deliberate. I would give full marks to anyone who can point out the mistake!".

    Bah! I mean what harm is there to tell that that there was a mistake on his part (maybe even a printing mistake!) and he is sorry he came in late! Nope! They had to eclipse you, so that they retain control in class. Poor students!

  3. Number 1's totally not my fault.

  4. Down South you can replace "dude" with partner and darlin.

  5. Haha. This one completely cracked me up. Wonder how well you'd do moonlighting as a stand-up comic. Or have you already done that?