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Getting Started

The Learning & Teaching Office has gathered a variety of resources and reports to assist faculty and students in enhancing their classroom learning environment.

We hope this page will provide you with the necessary tools to get started in the classroom.

Check out our page of Teaching Tips documents for even more ideas.

Information for New Faculty

Welcome to Ryerson University! The Learning and Teaching Office has compiled this resource page to help new faculty get their footing at the university. We sponsor a number of workshops and events throughout the year, including a New Faculty Orientation. Check out our Programs page for dates and registration information.

The Learning and Teaching Office has also put together a handbook with information on Ryerson's Essential Services and Departments. The Essential Services Handbook is now available. [pdf].

If you would like to learn more about how The Learning and Teaching Office can help get you started, or you have a resource you would like to suggest for inclusion on this page, please feel free to contact us at lto@ryerson.ca.

About Ryerson University

 

Teaching

Working with TA/GAs

 

 

Understanding Your Students

 

Helping Students Succeed

Student Learning Support "is a group of services and programs aimed at helping students engage more effectively in their academic studies."

 

 

Essential Campus Resources

The First Day of Class

Never underestimate the importance of the first class! "The way you engage students on the first day sends powerful messages about the level of involvement and interaction you expect from then... it is a great chance to stimulate interest about the course and to activate relevant prior knowledge students may have about the material" (CMU).

As laid out by the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, students enter the first class with some common questions:

  • Is the class going to meet my needs?
  • Is the teacher competent?
  • Is the teacher fair?
  • Will the teacher care about me?
  • Will I be able to succeed?
  • What does the teacher expect from me?
  • What will I need to do to get a good grade?
  • Will I be able to juggle the workload for this course with the workload in my other courses?

 

Lay out your expectations for students, but also demonstrate to students what they should expect from you—using the first class as a model for the way the course will be run will help motivate students, clarify how they should best spend their time, and let them make an informed decision as to whether they should drop the course. The following tips will help you create an engaging and effective first class:

The First Day of Class [pdf]

 

Additional Resources

 

Course Design

Before exploring the information found in any outside sources, instructors should first check the Ryerson University course management policies, which have been developed by the Senate and the School of Graduate Studies. These policies are available as downloadable pdfs from the Ryerson website:

 

After consulting the official Ryerson policies, instructors might find the following examples of best practices in course design helpful:

L. Dee Fink offers his own Five Principles of Good Course Design. He describes a good course as one that:

  • Challenges students to higher level learning
  • Uses active forms of learning
  • Gives frequent and immediate feedback to students on the quality of their learning
  • Uses a structured sequence of different learning activities
  • Has a fair system for assessing and grading students

 

Barbara Gross Davis has provided an outline for revising pre-existing courses (Tools for Teaching, 1993). When trying to reduce the amount of course content, for instance, she suggests: 

  • Distinguish between essential and optional material
  • Emphasize the core concepts
  • Stress the classic issues, or the most enduring values or truths
  • Give students a conceptual framework on which to hang major ideas and factual information

 

For more information on redesigning your course, check out our Teaching Tips document on Course Redesign [pdf]

 

Planning Your Course

Carnegie Mellon's page on how to Design and Teach a Course has an excellent step-by-step plan for creating an effective course. We have modified their plan to create a Ryerson specific plan with links to many of our relevant documents. Check the Carnegie Mellon page for more details.

Consider timing and logistics

Get to know your students

Identify the situational constraints

  • How big is your class?
  • What time of day is the class scheduled for?
  • How long and how often will your class meet?
  • Is your class required or an elective?
  • Are your students first year undergraduates, upper level undergraduates, or graduate students?
  • How much flexibility will students have to complete the requirements for your course? Are they currently doing placements or working full time jobs? Will they be able to meet outside of class to complete group assignments?
  • Is there material that must be covered to support later courses in the program?
  • What classroom will you be teaching in? Is it a large lecture hall, a small room with flexible seating, etc.? 
  • What technology will be available to you?
  • Will you be using clickers?

Articulate your learning outcomes

Identify potential assessments

  • When determining the assessment methods for your course, ask yourself:
    • “What will the students' work on the activity tell me about their level of competence on the targeted learning objectives?
    • How will my assessment of their work help guide students’ practice and improve the quality of their work?
    • How will the assessment outcomes for the class guide my teaching practice?”
  • Read more:

Identify appropriate instructional strategies

Plan your course content and schedule

  • Once you’ve selected your learning objectives, assessments, and instructional strategies, “the next task is to organize them into a coherent, dynamic whole.” This involves:
    • Deciding on a course structure:
      • What topics will be covered and in what order?
    • Selecting a teaching strategy to support learning goals:
      • “What kinds of activities will students need to engage in to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge?
      • How can you organize these activities to provide sufficient practice?
      • How can you sequence them so that skills build upon one another?”
    • Creating a schedule
      • What are the time constraints on your course? Is the class broken up by any major university events or holidays?
      • How much time do you have to leave between assignments to avoid putting excessive pressure on students as well as to leave sufficient time for you to grade their work?
      • Do you want to scaffold assignments so the work from one can be applied to the next? How much time is needed in between to allow for students to incorporate any feedback they’ve received?

 

Syllabus Design

Carnegie Mellon's page on how to Design and Teach a Course has an excellent step-by-step plan for building an effective syllabus. We have modified their plan to create a Ryerson specific plan with links to many of our relevant documents. Check the Carnegie Mellon page for more details.

There are certain required elements of a course outline that are outlined in the Course Management Policy. These required elements are summarized in the LTO's Just in Time Teaching Information document. You can also download a guide to creating course outlines that meet university policy [docx].

Check with your department to see if there are any examples or templates that you can use to design your syllabus.

Your course syllabus should:

  • “Convey your enthusiasm for the topic and your expectations for the course, show how this course fits into the broader context,
    • establish a contract with students by publicly stating policies, requirements, and procedures,
    • set the tone for the course…
    • help students assess their readiness for the course…
    • help students manage their learning,
    • communicate course goals and content to colleagues”
  • Components of a syllabus include:
    • Course number, title, semester and year
    • Course meeting times and location
    • Instructor and TA information (including contact information and office hours and location)
    • Requirements regarding the use of Ryerson email for faculty communication
    • Course description
    • Course objectives
    • Course organization
    • Type of teaching methods
    • Materials (both required and optional) and where they can be obtained
    • Pre-requisites (both in terms of other courses and skills or knowledge) and exclusions.
    • Course requirements (assignments, exams, participation, etc.).
    • Field placements or technology requirements.
    • Description of any activities taking place outside of class time or off campus
    • Evaluation and grading policy
    • Method of posting grades
    • Course policies and expectations (class conduct, attendance, lateness, academic integrity, use of Turnitin, missed assignments and exams, laptop and electronic device use, etc.)
    • Requirements for medical documentation/notification for missed work
    • Course calendar
    • Advice (how to study, where students can get help, etc.). For example, you could include information on:
Engaging and Motivating Students

The concept of student engagement, as coined by Kuh, has been developed as a way to assess educational outcomes and the quality of teaching and learning (Gottheil & Smith).

According to the National Survey on Student Engagement (NSSE), "students in Canada participate less in three of the best practices in undergraduate education, active learning, peer collaboration, and student-faculty interaction," that would lead to greater student engagement (Gottheil & Smith).

There are many ways of increasing student engagement in the classroom. In their report on student motivation and engagement, the Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) identified some requirements for engaging classroom activities.

"Students will engage with tasks they find interesting, challenging and important.

A task is:

  • "interesting when it catches attention, when it presents something not completely predictable, or not fully known, something more to find out, to be explored or to discover,
  • "challenging when there is a goal or end to work towards, to achieve, and reasonable confidence of being successful, and
  • "important when it offers something, or leads to something of value. It may be something of immediate value; it may offer access to a more long-term goal and long-term satisfaction."

A task is considered boring:

  • "there is nothing about it that attracts; it is too familiar or too easy,
  • "there is a good chance of being a failure;
  • "there is no connection with any immediate or long term goals. The task is not valued.
  • "too much effort is required;"

 

Carleton College has summarized the educational literature on increasing student motivation and engagement in the classroom:

Make it real: "create learning activities that are based on topics that are relevant to your students' lives."

Provide choices: Students "have increased motivation when they feel some sense of autonomy in the learning process, and that motivation declines when students have no voice in the class structure."

Balance the challenge: "Students perform best when the level of difficulty is slightly above their current ability level."

Seek role models: "If students can identify with role models they may be more likely to see the relevance in the subject matter… There can be many sources of role models, such as invited guest speakers, fellow students or other peers."

Use peer models: "Students can learn by watching a peer succeed at a task."

Establish a sense of belonging: Students' "sense of belonging is fostered by an instructor that demonstrates warmth and openness, encourages student participation, is enthusiastic, friendly and helpful, and is organized and prepared for class."

Adopt a supportive style that includes "listening, giving hints and encouragement, being responsive to student questions and showing empathy for students."

Strategize with struggling students: "When students are struggling with poor academic performance, low self-efficacy or low motivation, one strategy that may help is to teach them how to learn... Outline specific strategies for completing an assignment, note-taking or reviewing for an exam."

Learn More

Classroom Management

Developed by the LTO in collaboration with the Student Conduct Officer, this document outlines a series of steps that you can take to create a civil classroom environment as well as manage any disruptions that arise.

Classroom Management [pdf]

Other documents that may be of interest:

Handling Controversy in the Classroom [pdf]

Group Work: Dealing with Conflict [pdf]

 

Mobile Devices in the Classroom: Advice from the Teaching Chairs

 

View/Print Transcript [docx]

View/Print Transcript [pdf]

 

Are these resources helpful?

If you would like to make comments or suggestions, recommend useful resources, or share your practice, please email Michelle Schwartz, Instructional Design and Research Strategist, at michelle.schwartz@ryerson.ca

Please check out the LTO's list of current programs for more services to help you improve your teaching.

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Contact the LTO

The Learning & Teaching Office, Kerr Hall West, KHW373
P: 416.979.5000 Ext. 3213 F: 416.542.5879 E: lto@ryerson.ca