• Personally, I call all students by their first
names and avoid pronouns. For me, this
is a simple approach that avoids many
4. Do be careful to avoid bias in examples,
• Not all professional people are white
males, so one must be careful that
examples involving professional people
include a diverse range of names and
references. (Of course, similar comments apply to any career group.)
• Images send messages regarding who
is included in a group, profession, club,
etc., and images also suggest which
groups might be excluded or not
5. Do maintain standards, but be creative
in how students demonstrate mastery—
reflecting different personality types
and learning styles.
Commentary: Years ago, I had the same
student for calculus I and calculus II.
Throughout calculus I the student did
well on homework and in class discussions. However, the student consistently performed poorly on tests. By
the end of Calculus I, the student was
frustrated in that test scores did not
seem to reflect the student’s knowledge. Immediately after the first test in
Calculus II, the student came directly to
my office and indicated, “It happened
again. I did not show what I knew.” The
student then indicated a wish to show
me that the student knew each answer
and proceeded to write a completely
correct solution to every test problem
on my blackboard. Thereafter, I allowed
the student to take the test in my
office—on the blackboard, and the student aced every test. The point is that,
at least for me, grades should reflect
actual mastery of the relevant material,
but different students may flourish in
one environment rather than another.
I am open to students demonstrating
their understanding in various settings,
but the course grade must be based on
actual evidence, not on assertions of “I
6. Do speak loud enough, without overwhelming some in the front of a room.
Commentary: Speaking clearly and at an
appropriate volume does not guarantee
a conversation will be effective. However, mumbling or speaking too quietly or
too loudly or utilizing a monotone voice
will likely guarantee that other qualities
of a presentation will not be effective.
7. Don’t fall prey to distracting
a. Avoid verbal ticks, such as “like,” “uh,”
“basically,” “you know,” and the like.
b. Avoid unnecessary physical gestures
and movements that sidetrack a
listener’s attention from the matter
Commentary: Students need to focus
on content, logical connections among
ideas, techniques, etc. Idiosyncrasies
in presentation can capture a listener’s
attention, undermining the examination
of the intended subject matter.
8. Do ask an observer to periodically
attend a class session to note what is
working well, what details might be
distracting, and what improvements
might be possible.
Commentary: As an instructor engaged
in classroom interactions, it is very difficult to objectively determine how students percieve behaviors and practices.
Are notes clear, can students read slides/
board notes, is the instructor too loud or
too quiet, etc.? An observer can provide
worthwhile feedback without having to
lead the class at the same time.
9. Don’t pretend you know everything.
Commentary: The discipline of computer
science changes at a rapid rate, and few
(if any) can keep up with all current de-
velopments in the field. Thus, it is fine to
say you do not know an answer, but then
either think it through with the class or
tell them the following class (after doing
10. Do articulate your thought process,
when you need to think about the
answer to a student question.
Commentary: Thinking quietly, by
yourself, may seem efficient in getting
an answer, but talking about the process
provides insight about how you approach a problem. Further, students can
observe both false starts and successful
approaches, and you are modeling the
Class Structure and
11. Do start each class by presenting an
outline of what will be covered, so
listeners can follow the various topics
being covered and can put the pieces
together as the class proceeds.
Commentary: Within an oral presentation, listeners cannot go back to
previous material to check connections
with what happened earlier. Rather the
speaker must make those connections.
Beginning class by outlining topics to be
covered helps identify an initial structure
for what follows.
12. Do encourage students to bring
their books to class, and then refer
to graphs, tables, etc. rather than
reproducing extensive content on the
Commentary: Since it takes time to read
and digest large amounts of data and
long passages of text, classroom activities can easily become bogged down
when extensive details are presented.
Avoid bias in examples, pictures…
Images send messages regarding who is
included in a group, profession, club, etc.,
and images also suggest which groups
might be excluded or not welcome.