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New Teaching Handbook Produced by Langlais, Ulmer

A new Teaching Handbook from the Old Dominion University Center for Learning Technologies (CLT) and Office of Graduate Studies is designed to help teaching assistants, instructors and new faculty perform at their best in modern classrooms.

The nearly 100-page handbook was prepared by Philip Langlais, professor of psychology and former vice provost for graduate studies and research, and Loreta Ulmer, an instructional designer with CLT. The handbook is available at the website of the Office of Graduate Studies: http://www.odu.edu/ao/gradstudies/publications/teaching_handbook.pdf.

"Teaching and learning has changed significantly…. The classroom environment has become more student-centered," the authors write in the introduction. "Curriculum is multi-disciplinary and no longer focused upon memorization of information, but rather on learning how to learn and think critically and creatively."

"Dr. Ulmer and I have focused on ways to create active learning environments and learning outcomes that promote skills as well as knowledge," Langlais said in an interview. "We have drawn from best practices based on the most current pedagogical theories and research. This handbook should prove to be useful to our graduate teaching assistants, new faculty and our more seasoned instructors. We welcome suggestions from all users on ways to make the second edition more informative and applicable than this first edition."

The handbook includes chapters titled "Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century," "Active

Learning and Effective Strategies," "Teaching and Learning Outcomes," "The Syllabus as a Learning Tool" and "Learner-Centered Assignments and Teaching with Technology."

Considerable attention is given to an age-old decision that teachers must make: to lecture or not to lecture. The lecture approach, according to the handbook, is an excellent way for a teacher to cover a prescribed amount of material - including original research - for a large number of students. A more free-wheeling classroom environment with student participation may range off point, but also tends to keep students interested and motivated to learn.

The handbook encourages instructors to adapt their teaching styles as often as possible to the course material, their strengths as a speaker and the characteristics of their students. The attention of some students wanes quickly during lectures, whereas others prefer a non-threatening classroom environment in which they will not be forced to answer questions or present their views. On a lighter note, instructors are urged to keep early morning classes as lively as possible to help students stay alert.

Syllabus preparation is also stressed. "A large number of complaints frequently have at their root a lack of understanding of the requirements and expectations for performance in a course. A syllabus can consolidate into a single document all of the routine matters that surround teaching a course…. Careful construction of the syllabus reduces ambiguity and is the first step toward producing an environment in which students can flourish," the handbook states.

Langlais and Ulmer wrote most of the handbook, and also used with permission some sections of the 5th Edition of Michigan State University's Teaching Assistant Manual by Karen Klomparens.

This article was posted on: September 5, 2010

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