R.E.S.P.E.C.T.-A Teaching Primer

Article excerpt

Respect is the key to successful teaching because it unlocks barriers to student learning. Treating students with respect opens their minds, thereby facilitating the learning process. As Thomas Dewey said, "You aren't teaching unless someone is learning!" The elements that make up this teaching primer are guidelines for creating an effective teaching strategy for science students. Effective teachers can incorporate the elements of R.E.S.P.E.C.T.--Relevance, Enthusiasm, Sincerity, Persistence, Extra Effort, Challenge, and Trust--to inspire, motivate, and challenge students. The approach is designed to create a positive learning environment and to impact students, not only during the semester, but also throughout their lives.

Relevance--Connect fundamental concepts with real-world situations. Only a fraction of a typical lecture will be inherently interesting to the average university student, so we must integrate course topics and the sphere of students' interests. When students see the relationship between basic class concepts and their lives, then their interest and understanding of the material increase significantly. Effective teachers are able to see things from a student's perspective. Relate course material to relevant news items by using examples and analogies. The teacher is a partner in a cooperative effort to expand students' critical- and analytical-thinking skills, not only because these skills are important in the classroom, but also because these skills will be relevant to their personal and professional lives.

Enthusiasm--Students respond to your level of energy, so exude enthusiasm for your subject. Passion motivates students and motivated students learn. Sprinkle your lectures with humor. If you are not a good joke teller, use planned spontaneity--a technique that seems spontaneous, but is actually rehearsed. In fact, try to choreograph every minute of your lecture. One way to set the mood in the classroom is by playing upbeat music before the lecture that relates to the lecture theme of the day. For example, prior to a lecture on Mendelian genetics, I play Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl." Music promotes a comfortable classroom atmosphere that keeps students coming to class. An enthusiastic, flexible lecture style without the use of prepared overheads or PowerPoint slides also helps maintain student engagement.

Sincerity--Show genuine concern for your students, and they will put forth a greater effort to learn. Learn student names and use them. Displaying patience toward students indicates that you are approachable. Good listening skills are critical. Responding to student questions in an arrogant or condescending manner suggests that you have no time for them. Demonstrate a willingness to help students succeed by inviting questions and soliciting feedback. Be proud when they succeed and be compassionate when they fail. Help students develop confidence and reduce their fear of failure. They will then be willing to take a chance and initiate new approaches and learning strategies. Simple acts such as phone calls to borderline students to offer help and encouragement before finals indicate your interest in their success. As a result, students will approach you for help with course material and advice related to their academic development.

Persistence--Students must learn that hard work and consistent effort are required in order to succeed, but do not ask them to work harder than you do. A teacher who arrives early and is well prepared and organized for class demonstrates tenacity and self-discipline. …