Advice for Grad Students and New Instructors

Media Type: Teaching Ideas

A few tips I've learned along the way...

All of the important course events belong on your syllabus. Choosing an exam date at a later time will create conflicts with job interviews, other exams, and other events that students have not had time to anticipate and resolve. If you have a review session -- the review is only to go over previously introduced material. Never introduce new material.
Most undergraduates do not pay serious attention to a course until the first exam. The later the first exam occurs, the greater is the negative shock to the students who do poorly on it, and the more likely they are to complain that the questions were unexpected and unfair. For this reason, think strongly about having the first exam no later than 1/3rd of the way through your course.
An unavoidable issue that arises is re-grading. All instructors have their own favorite strategies to discourage grade renegotiation. My own is to assign each answer as being correct, worth half, or zero. I then post an answer key that describes the correct answer as completely as possible and refer students to the key. Upon reading the key students rarely argue for the full credit answer. At the same time, we try to very generous about giving half credit. The upshot is that students usually understand that they did not get the “correct” answer and they are happy to get half credit.
What things do you struggle with? Have any tips you’d like to share? Chat with other teachers and TA’s in our Q&A area! 
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