Teaching Tips for New Professors and Lecturers

Teaching Tips for New Professors and Lecturers


Though most new professors have already clocked countless hours in the classroom as teaching assistants, the shift to being the sole authority in the room can be a very scary one. No matter how prepared you might feel, the first days (or weeks or months) at any new job tend to be a bit overwhelming. Whether you feel like going home and hiding under the covers until winter break or you just need a little extra boost to get you on the right track, the following 10 tips will help you stay motivated, organized and ready for the coming academic year.

  1. Ask for Advice

It’s important to remember that everyone was new at some point. Whether before, during or after your first semester, don’t hesitate to reach out to colleagues for advice and assistance. As this great article fromWashington University in St. Luis makes clear, other faculty members can give you specific advice about your institution and help you understand the nuances of what it’s like to work there.

  1. Define Clear Goals

This goes for both you and for your students. In the first few sessions, make it clear to your students what you hope to achieve and how you hope to get there. Don’t simply go over the syllabus, but instead show students why you chose the content and how you expect to tackle it together.

  1. Establish Your Role Early On

While high school students tend to be a bit more aggressive than college students when it comes to jumping on a teacher’s vulnerabilities, it’s still incredibly important to show that you are the boss straight away. Even if you feel nervous, remember that you have earned this position and that it’s yours alone.

  1. Always Be Prepared (And Prepared to Change)

One of the best ways to establish yourself as an authority in the classroom is to always come prepared. Be sure to set up anything you’ll need during your lecture or discussion in advance so that if there are any issues you can take care of them beforehand without wasting valuable class time. If something goes wrong or gets changed last minute, be prepared to go with the flow – it’s best to always have a back-up plan.

  1. Try Out Diverse Teaching Methods

You might have clear ideas about what type of professor you want to be before you enter the classroom, but don’t be surprised if your expectations shift once reality sets in. Though sticking to a plan is important, it’s also a good idea to try out assorted teaching tools and methods. Today, using technology in various ways can be a great way to engage students. As this post on Faculty Focus points out, uploading videos, syllabi and other items can help keep student involvement high even before a course starts.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes

It’s understandable to want to always want to answer students’ questions and know the right answers, but it’s impossible to be right all the time. If you don’t know an answer, it’s best to simply admit that and come back to that student once you’ve figured it out. Your students will respect you more if you admit your flaws rather than pretending to be sure about something when you’re not.

  1. Have High Expectations and Engage Your Students

Whether you’re teaching in a community college or an Ivy League university, it’s important to remember that your students will rise to the occasion and meet the standard you set, provided you give them the opportunity to do so. This means not only presenting challenges, but also remembering that it’s your job to offer students the tools to address such challenges and the skills to do their best work.

  1. Depth is Usually Better than Breadth

Many new professors feel that if they don’t get through every page of a book and every item on the syllabus they haven’t done their job. Yet, for most students, a comprehensive examination of one subject is much better than a superficial look at many subjects. So, as is pointed out in this Psychology Today article, don’t be afraid to let a good discussion go on a bit longer than planned – just be clear about your expectations for what students need to be familiar with even if you don’t get through everything in class.

  1. Take Notes and Build On Your Own Experiences

In addition to incorporating the advice of other professors, it’s important to reflect on your own experience in the classroom. Taking notes or keeping a teaching journal can help you veer away from things that didn’t work and focus on what did. As this blog post from About Education highlights, it’s also important to reflect on what’s doable for you. If the first few weeks of classes make you realize you’ve packed too much in, don’t be afraid to adapt the syllabus for the rest of the semester.

10.  Be Yourself and Have Fun

Although it might not always be easy to stay relaxed, try to remember that being yourself and showing your passion for your subject can be a great motivator for students and the best way for you to enjoy your job. You’ve made it through grad school and landed a job as a professor, so be proud of yourself and let yourself have some fun with it!

Photo credit: matt