Teaching Resources

I. Faculty Development Services
Jack Prostko, Director

As Director of Faculty Development for the College of Professional Studies, my primary job is to assist you with the development and delivery of courses. If you are concerned about your effectiveness in the classroom, about a new course you are designing, or about other classroom issues, including such topics as academic integrity or managing student interactions, you may want to consult with me. I have a variety of resources on alternative teaching approaches, evaluation and improvement strategies, and methods of working effectively with students. I would be happy to meet with you to discuss your teaching, sit in on your classes to give you feedback, or help get student feedback early in the course.

I come from the faculty ranks, having taught as an Asst. Professor of English at Vanderbilt University before becoming the Associate Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Stanford and then the Director of Faculty Development at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. All told, then, I have over 25 years of experience in Higher Education and have consulted with hundreds of instructors.

Classroom Observations and Mid-Course Focus Group Evaluations
Getting useful (and honest) student feedback during a course is often difficult, and end-of-course written student evaluation results come too late to make changes that will improve the class for your current students.

To provide you with information on the classes you are currently teaching, I am happy to observe your class and meet with you to discuss the session. As an "outside" observer (who is not a specialist in your disciple) I can give you a student’s perspective on what’s working and not working in the class session–and suggest strategies that might be effective.

In addition, I can conduct a mid-course evaluation. The evaluation takes approximately fifteen to twenty minutes at the beginning or end of a class of your choosing. I will visit your class and, after you leave, divide your students into small groups. Each group is given time to agree on what is working well in the course, what needs improvement, and what suggestions they have for carrying out the improvements. I’ll record the responses and then meet with you to discuss these comments and also write up a comprehensive summary for you.

I am available to consult with you in person, by phone, or through email about any teaching concerns you have. I have extensive experience in designing courses, in developing effective teaching practices, and in working with students. I regularly review faculty syllabi and assignments and am happy to brainstorm with you strategies for teaching topics and issues. At your request, I will also review your teaching evaluations with you to help make sense of what are sometimes confusing or contradictory evaluation results and comments.

All of the work I do with faculty is confidential. It is for formative (or developmental) purposes. You may wish to use information about your work with me in summative self-evaluations for program or college purposes. But I do not provide evaluative information about faculty members to administrators (program directors or deans or committees) making personnel decisions unless asked by you to do so.

I look forward to working with you and encourage you to contact me with questions or concerns–or just to meet with me so that we can discuss your teaching interests. It may be that I can point you in the direction of helpful resources that you haven’t yet discovered.

II. Developing a Course

While the normal impulse when designing a course is to think about all the things you want to include and then produce a syllabus that is essentially a list of topics, good courses are actually created in exactly the opposite way. Fit in the content nearer the end of the process of constructing a course. Begin the process by determining what is most essential for students to learn–what should they carry away from the course by the end and be able to do months later? That is, start by determining the learning goals for the course.

Courses taught at CPS fit within the larger context of the academic program within which they sit. Each program has developed its own set of learning goals or outcomes–the general set of information, concepts, and skills that students are expected to have mastered by the conclusion of the program. Contact the Program Director of your program for a current master list of program outcomes.

When constructing a course, first determine–in consultation with the program director–the learning goals for this particular course. Usually, a course attempts to achieve four or five major learning objectives. For assistance in articulating the learning goals for your course, see the website for the Office of Academic Planning and Assessment and the Course Assessment 101: A Primer for Faculty.

Once your learning goals have been identified, you can decide on assignments that will demonstrate how well students are achieving these goals. Several or many smaller assignments provide you the opportunity to give quick feedback to students to help them manage their learning. This is preferable to only making one or two major assignments (for example, one large project at the end) where students are unable to use feedback to improve future performance in the class.

Now you can determine when and how the content of the class will need to be taught.

A brief and extremely helpful primer for designing courses is Integrated Course Design, by Dee Fink, (Idea Paper #42).

This site also contains essays that cover other teaching topics that may prove useful to you in your work.

See also the University Teaching and Learning Center and the information listed in the UTLC teaching guide.

The Syllabus
There are many examples of good syllabi, and many ways to go about writing one. But all good syllabi contain the following:

  1. Basic course information (course title, meeting location and time)
  2. Instructor information (office, office hours, phone, email, website)
  3. Course description and rationale (what is the course about and why does it exist; how does it fit in with the rest of the university's or department's curriculum?)
  4. Course goals/objectives (what will the students learn from this course? list specific learning outcomes the course is intended to produce. "By the end of this course, students will be able to. . .")
  5. Format and procedures (how will the course be structured and how will classes be taught? will there be discussion? an opportunity to ask questions?)
  6. Course requirements (readings, homework, participation, tests, papers, projects)
  7. Grading procedures (what will be graded? how will the grading percentages be distributed among assignments?)
  8. Academic integrity information; disability services statement; emergency preparedness (please refer students to the GW academic integrity code (http://www.gwu.edu/~ntegrity/code.html); include the disability syllabus statement; and emergency preparedness information:http://www.campusadvisories.gwu.edu/pages/06_faculty/
  9. Course schedule (dates of class meetings, topics covered, readings/problems/assignments due, test or presentation dates)
  10. Suggestions for achieving course goals and meeting academic expectations (what have students done in the past to help them perform well? what academic resources exist to help students?)

Resources for Course Design:
The University Teaching and Learning Center and the information listed in the UTLC teaching guide

Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, Instructional Design Guides

Barbara Gross Davis, Tools for Teaching

(Chapter 1: Preparing or Revising a Course; Chapter 2: The Course Syllabus)
IDEA Papers (Kansas): http://www.idea.ksu.edu/resources/index.html

(Especially No. 27, "Writing a Syllabus" and No. 42, "Integrated Course Design")
Dee Fink, What is Integrated Course Design?

(33 page Self-Directed Guide to Designing Significant Courses)
Fink, L. Dee. (2003). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass).

O’Brien, Judith Grunert, et. al. (2008). The Course Syllabus: A Learning-Centered Approach. (Bolton, MA: Anker). 

III. Teaching Resources

The University Teaching and Learning Center is dedicated to assisting faculty in creating high-quality instructional materials, utilizing the most current instructional design approaches and instructional technologies. The Center promotes innovation, collaboration, collegiality, and the scholarship of teaching, by providing instructional consultations, workshops, events, grants, print and web-based resources, and an Instructional Technology Lab.

The UTLC also has organized a rich collection of links to education resources at GW and on the web http://tlc.provost.gwu.edu/teaching-guide

Office of Academic Affairs
Policies and Procedures: There are a number of policies and procedures that relate to academic life at GW. The documents that appear in this list are typically circulated by campus mail to faculty members and/or department and program chairs at least once per academic year. This site includes the Policy on Academic Integrity, the Faculty Handbook.

OAA has also set up a set of teaching related links to topics including to the Registrar’s Office and relevant sections of the Faculty Handbook.

IV. Teaching Topics

Since most classes taught in CPS are two or three hour evening classes, lecturing for an extended period of time is not recommended. Listeners at the best of times have a limited capacity for attending to and retaining complex information in bulk–and while using Powerpoint to organize our information may be useful as a structuring aid, this can be deadly as a teaching strategy because it slowly induces catatonia in even the most attentive audience. Many slides containing many words finally blend together in one great bundle of "stuff" that students hope they can eventually review again at home on your Blackboard site to really understand it.

The best strategy for lecturing is to divide your information into short 15-30 minute talks that are followed immediately by some way of engaging students in using the information you presented. They can discuss the issues, break into groups to solve a problem or review a case, be asked to create a summary with their own examples–any activity that requires them to immediately make sense of the new content and integrate it into their understanding of the course’s main focus.

The keys to successful lecturing are fairly straightforward:

  • Limit the amount of information under a few major points
  • Have an introduction that clearly outlines the main points
  • Use specific memorable examples to illustrate the major issues
  • For complex information use diagrams, handouts, or slides the display the information visually
  • Avoid long tangents
  • Summarize the main points at the end
  • Be interested and engaging–even enthusiastic (speak to the audience, not the slides or board)


http://www.gwu.edu/~assess/courserubrics.html GW’s site with some excellent information


http://rubistar.4teachers.org/ helps you create your own rubric and print it out; you don't need to join this site--just use the software



Web Resources
The IDEA Center - This site contains many practical papers on teaching topic, including on course design, grading, discussion leading, and lecturing 

Teaching Centers at Universities and Colleges

Useful University Teaching Center Resource pages: These links contain lots of specific practical information on teaching strategies
Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching 

Harvard University Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

Western Kentucky University

University Professional and Continuing Education Association