Volume XLI, No. 4 | February 7, 2019
Every semester, I create a to-do list of a new teaching methods to try or previous teaching methods to put a twist on. In particular, I try to implement suggestions students offer for improving my classroom. My continued self-reflections on how to improve my teaching craft has led me to sum up my current pedagogical strategy with the mnemonic, “CHEERS.”
I think all instructors try to exercise most CHEERS strategies to help and challenge students, but I hope that the following explanation serves as a useful reminder of or new best practices for your own pedagogical approach.
“C” is for Challenge.
Strive to challenge students’ intellect using case studies, real-life applications, and what-if analysis to promote critical thinking.
I challenge students to think beyond the course textbook by incorporating current news or expert videos into class discussions. For example, when I discuss generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) in my accounting course, I display screenshots of current accounting news. Students must identify which GAAP rules are being followed or not being followed in the provided news clips. Another exercise I use is having teams of students review job advertisements. I give each team a job advertisement and ask them to identify which skills in the posting match the accounting skills that we practice in class and for homework. This allows students to understand that skills being learned and practiced in class directly apply in the workplace.
“H” is for Help.
Some students come to class with a lack of confidence that they can learn course concepts. As educators, we should address fears students have about a subject by trying our best to reach every student across the learning spectrum.
Students come to college at many different stages of their lives. My classes contain a wide range of students, from those who have just graduated from high school to students who are in their retirement years. As such, I use a variety of media to ensure that course concepts resonate with all students. In order to give students a variety of support tools for success, I send weekly announcements that inform students about various helpful resources. The announcements usually include a review of tips from textbook chapters, PowerPoint slides, help guides, educational videos, and reminders about on-campus tutoring services.
“E” is for Encourage.
Encouraging students along their educational journey will usually improve their confidence and performance. Offer encouragement early and often in class, outside of class, and in weekly announcements. Most importantly, let students know that you are on their team, but that they must also do their part.
Oftentimes, when a student is being abrupt or unprofessional with instructors or peers, it’s because something is not quite right in his or her personal life. However, I try not to take such behavior personally, and instead, offer to meet with the student one-on-one. Simply listening to a student can demonstrate that you care and are willing to help him or her get through the semester if the student is willing to put in the time and effort. Of course, instructors cannot resolve every students’ personal situation, but directing them to appropriate resources is another important tool we can employ for student success. Encourage students to seek free counseling or other mental health resources that are offered through the college if you feel it is appropriate to do so.
“E” is for Excite.
Most students become more engaged and excited when relatable stories or articles, teamwork, and educational games are infused into lectures.
The best way to excite students about a course subject is for instructors to introduce some kind of engaging behavior or material into class lectures and demonstrations. I always start class with a smile and by sharing information that is relevant and attention grabbing within the first few minutes. This might be in the form of an interesting post that I found on Pinterest or a short video clip about a current trend in accounting. Artificial intelligence is a great topic that usually leads to lively discussion. Games are another fantastic way to engage students. An example of a game I use is called, “Trick or Truth.” The game is meant to be an end-of-class, true or false (hence, “Trick or Truth”) question and answer activity. I administer this activity in slideshow format around Halloween, but you can create a play on words or clever title for other holidays. Let your imagination be your guide!
“R” is for Respect.
Usually when instructors show students respect, they receive respect in return. Whenever possible, teach by example by being professional and positive.
As we know, respect is earned. What we may not always keep in mind is that earning respect is a two-way street. In my classes, I call my students by their preferred prefix of “Mr.” or “Ms.” and their last name. I have found that this practice sets the tone for professionalism and respect. Being respectful of students’ schedules by starting class sessions on time, ending class on time, and being straightforward with instructions is also important. If I know I will be using handouts in class, I try to make copies a few days ahead of time (we all know what happens when you try to make copies right before class—the copier laughs at you by deciding not to work). Making handout copies a few days ahead of time helps to ensure that I start class on time, thereby demonstrating respect for my students’ schedules.
“S” is for Share.
Share your experiences that can help students to be their best selves. Hold back no good tips that are appropriate to share.
Do not be afraid to share personal anecdotes of success in your professional life or any valuable professional tips with your students. I share the following story with my students:
“Once upon a time, when I was between jobs, I went to a temp agency to find job leads. In the middle of my meeting with the temp agency staff member, the staffer stopped to tell me that he remembered me from somewhere else. It turned out that he was one of my former students!”
The lesson I convey to students with this story is the importance of being polite and professional to everyone, at all times, because you never know who you might need help from someday. Another tip I share with my students is the importance of professional networking. I inform students about relevant videos, college student workshops, and other resources or opportunities that can help with career networking and moving them closer to their professional goals.
Students are destined to move forward and succeed when they invest the appropriate time and effort into their classwork. One way to support students and help them to accomplish success is by having a teaching strategy, whether that be one you currently use or by using my CHEERS (Challenge, Help, Encourage, Excite, Respect, Share) strategy.
Angela V. Payne, Professor, Business and Technology
For further information, contact the author at Collin College, 3452 Spur 399, McKinney, TX 75069. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Opinions and views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of NISOD.
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