Tips for a Successful Start to the Semester

Teaching Methods | Soft Skills
Teaching Methods

Article Summary

  • Whether it's your first time ever teaching a course, or it's the first day of one you've taught many times before, starting the semester off right is essential for student engagement and success.
  • Engaging icebreakers, modern technology and current curriculum insights are just some of the ways you can start your term strong.
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Facing a new course or classroom can be nerve-racking, no matter how prepared you are. You know the content, the lesson plans, the syllabus—but even the most tenured instructors might still experience first-day jitters.

Whether you’re a first-time instructor or simply want to start the semester with confidence, these five tips will help get you started with a new course or classroom.

 Tip 1: Talk with Colleagues

You can start with a simple but effective tip: talk with your fellow instructors. Who better to clue you in on the norms and nuances of the program, department and institution?

Ask colleagues about the students that typically enroll in the course including demographics, academic ability, motivation, expectations and prior content experience.

Colleagues can also tell you about—and advise you on—common problems that affect the faculty in similar classes or departments.

 Tip 2: Break the Ice

Kicking off a new semester or course? Having an arsenal of engaging ice breakers and topic starters helps socialize, stimulate and prime students for success—and helps soothe any first-time-teaching tension or nerves.

Professor Shawn Orr of Ashland University uses ice breakers to engage students at the start of the course, and throughout the semester, too.

“Polar bears break the ice to survive; teachers break the ice to thrive.” – Professor Shawn Orr

 To effectively incorporate ice breakers into your own courses, check out Orr’s helpful list of tips and tricks.

Tip 3: Take Advantage of Technology  

Connecting with students can be tough, but technology—something today’s students are all-too-familiar with—can be a helpful tool.

Watch this from professor Cornel Plebani of Eastern Maine Community College; he shares how he uses technology to connect coursework with real-world context—critical for career-ready learners.

Tip 4: Course Goals Should Drive Content

Before the semester kicks off, take some time to then make sure the content you plan to teach ladders up. The readings, class sessions and assignments should all be geared toward achieving the goals you’ve established.

 Tip 5: Stay Up to Date

The higher education landscape is always evolving, so it’s important to stay in the know about trends, insights and more that might affect how you plan your course or communicate with students.

Get a jumpstart with our list of currently happening in higher education.

For more insight into today’s students and ways to prepare, check out our ebook on why digital matters in the classroom.