1. Preparing to Teach

The Syllabus

The syllabus should be viewed as a CONTRACT between the students and instructor. Be clear about course expectations, requirements, and policies. Make sure that you (as the instructor of TA) honor the course policies and procedures as laid out in the syllabus and also hold your students accountable to those policies. Refer to the syllabus when you need to address a problem with a student (a grade complaint, for instance).

Make sure to plan on holding Office Hours on a regular basis and include office hours information in the syllabus. Even if you are not the main instructor for the course, you will likely have office hours to help students with assignments and course content.

View this sample NC A&T syllabus to see what content should be included in a syllabus: http://sacs.ncat.edu/doclib/Syllabus,%20University-Wide%20Template-22.pdf



Blackboard is an excellent tool for enhancing your course. It can be used to manage grading information (through Grade Center), it can be used to share content with students (powerpoint slides, videos, links, etc.), and it can be used for assignment submission and online quizzes/exams. Blackboard's layout can be customized by the instructor to meet the needs of the course.

To learn more about Blackboard's functionality for instructors, see the content here (including FAQs and video guides): https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor 


Planning the Course Content and Assignments/Exams

Plan a calendar of content to be covered over the course of the semester. Make sure the flow of content is logical. Often, it helps to split a course into several units, each with a clear theme. Make sure students can see how different parts of the course fit together, as this makes the content much easier for them to process. As you plan, think carefully about how much content can realistically be covered in a semester, in a unit, or in a given class session.

Plan what kinds of teaching strategies you will be using. Try to mix up your approach to keep students engaged. You may need to do some lecturing (with PowerPoint slides or white board), but make sure to incorporate in-class activities, discussions, small-group assignments, or a "flipped classroom" approach (have students learn content outside of class and then focus on activities while in class).

In addition to planning the course content, you need to plan the calendar of assignments and quizzes/exams. Make sure students know deadlines and key dates well in advance, and make sure they are clear about any assignment details or requirements.

Additionally, make sure to use a balance of low-stakes and high-stakes assignments/activities. Low-stakes assignments (such as a daily or weekly problem set) are not worth very much towards the course grade, so they give the student a chance to practice content and get feedback without much pressure. On the other hand, high-stakes assignments/activities (such as a final exam) are high-pressure and generally don't give the student as much of a chance to learn from mistakes. The idea is to help give students many opportunities to learn and progress with low-stakes activities before they come to a high-stakes activity.


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