North Central College - Naperville, IL

Teaching Tips & Strategies

Highlighted Resource: How to approach sensitive topics that would allow all students to weigh in initially through writing rather than speaking?  It begins with a controversial question, index cards, anonymous responses, shuffle cards, redistribute, report out…and then develop a word cloud. Intrigued? Read more about the process titled Addressing sensitive topics in class at NCC’s Center for Teaching and Learning website – look under the heading Building Rapport below.

Below, find tips and strategies for designing your course or syllabus, addressing student concerns and diversity, and incorporating technology into your teaching.




Teaching podcasts - Here is a good collection of podcasts on a variety of topics from developing respect in the classroom to storytelling as teaching to developing critical thinking skills - from Teaching in Higher Ed

Addressing instructional goals - Here is a good set of short articles providing ideas for addressing elements of good teaching often found on course evaluation forms such as "Explained the reasons for criticisms of students' academic performance," or "Explained course material clearly and concisely." - from The IDEA Center

Addressing learning goals for students - Here is a good set of short articles, similar to the above entry, providing ideas for promoting student learning, with titles such as “Learning fundamental principles, generalizations, or theories,” “Acquiring skills in working with others as a member of a team,” and “Learning to analyze and critically evaluate ideas, arguments, and points of view.” - from the IDEA Center

Solve a teaching problem - a unique site that identifies a number of common teaching problems (e.g., students do poorly on an exam, students don't come to lecture), helps you diagnose the likely cause(s), and suggests strategies for addressing the problem


Syllabus and Course Structure

Content tyranny - "Does the content tyrant rule your classroom? If you say, "I can't do that; I have to cover the content," every time a colleague offers a suggestion about how to improve your teaching, there's a good chance it does." This brief essay suggests some signs to look for and strategies to address content tyranny.

Samples of academic dishonesty/plagiarism statements on syllabi - from the Center for Teaching and Learning at Berkeley

Course Design

INTRODUCTION: Overview of an effective approach to course design -- This is a good place to start in thinking about designing a new course or redesigning an old one. It is based on the Understanding by Design model.

Fink Taxonomy for course design - this is a popular model for designing or rethinking a course, and this article provides a good step-by-step overview.

Understanding by Design - a widely used framework for course design developed by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins

Principles of effective course design - from an article by David Whetten in the Journal of Management Education

Design and teach a course - a lot of good suggestions for most aspects of course design - from the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence at Carnegie Mellon University

Course design tutorial - developed by Barbara Tewksbury and R. Heather Macdonald

Planning a course - good advice from an expert teacher

Course design - from the Center for Instructional Development and Research at the University of Washington

The first five minutes of a class - Some excellent suggestions of how to quickly and effectively engage your students - from The Chronicle of Higher Education

video Teaching for Learning - (1:02:06) a good, hour-long talk by a Stanford English faculty member describing how she shifted the focus of her course from "what she should teach" to "what students should learn." She uses her experiences with a Literary History course to illustrate the process she went through and the challenges she encountered and overcame.

"Flipping" the classroom

INTRODUCTION - an excellent description from Dakin Burdick

INTRODUCTION - A good description - from Faculty Focus

BIBLIOGRAPHY - Some good resources on flipping the classroom - from The Faculty Center of Teaching and Learning at the University of Central Florida

Jose Antonio Bowen - 2013 NCC Faculty Retreat speaker - Dr. Bowen was essentially suggesting that we consider flipping our classrooms given the vast wealth of content available to students on the Web.  Let students acquire more of that content outside of class and spend more time in class actively engaging the students in the ideas.  Read and view much more at his website "Teaching Naked."

"Looking for 'flippable' moments in your classroom" - from Faculty Focus

Syllabus development

"Components of a comprehensive course syllabus" - A good list of common syllabus components

Syllabus development - a good, detailed tutorial

Learning-centered syllabi - good, detailed advice from the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Iowa State University

"Cell phones in the classroom: What's your policy?" - an essay by Sydney Fulbright

First/last day of class

Top 10 tips for first day - from The Center for Teaching and Faculty Development at San Francisco State University

More strategies for the first days/weeks of class

More advice on the first day of class - from the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University

Eight objectives for the first day of class - from the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence at Carnegie Mellon University

"Five things to do on the first day of class" - more suggestions from Maryellen Weimer

Today we will - more suggestions from Jennifer Garrett

Learning student names - 27(!) techniques from Joan Middendorf

Last day of class - a nice set of ideas from Dakin Burdick

Learning outcomes/objectives

INTRODUCTION: Writing learning outcomes - very good, detailed description of how to create learning outcomes for your courses - from The Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence at Penn State University

Determining learning objectives - from the Handbook of instruction from Florida State University

Rubric for assessing course objectives

Clarifying goals and expectations - Do your goals for a class match your students'?  How can you bring them more in line?  This article describes a nice approach to getting students to examine their class goals and linking them better to your purposes. - from the Teaching Resource Center at the University of Virginia

"Fostering the reciprocity of learning" - This essay presents an interesting grid activity in which the instructor and students think about the teacher's and the students' goals for student learning as well as teacher and student goals for the instuctor's learning.


Building Rapport

"Establishing rapport: Personal interaction and learning" - IDEA Paper 39 - from The IDEA Center

Student information sheet - Description of how an instructor uses information gathered from students on the first day to build rapport throughout the course -- two examples are given of the questions asked of students

Addressing sensitive topics in class - from Fred Sanborn


Copy Rights

"Know your copy rights" - Excellent guide on what you can and cannot do with materials you want to use for your classes

"Reproduction of copyrighted works by educators and librarians" - another good guide to copy rights -- from the U.S. Government

The Digital Millenium Copyright Act -- passed in 1998 -- if yo uwant to see the long, official version


Motivating Students

INTRODUCTION: Promoting positive student motivation - Good overview of theory and research on student motivation with some suggestions - IDEA Paper 41 - from The IDEA Center

"Capturing and directing the motivation to learn"

"Getting students to read: 14 tips" - IDEA Paper 40 - from The IDEA Center

Teaching critical reading - from the Graduate Student Instructor Teaching and Resource Center at Berkeley


Teaching Diverse Students

Diversity Web - "An interactive resource hub for higher education" - from the Association of American Colleges and Universities

Diversity and inclusive excellence - publications from the Association of American Colleges and Universities

Creating inclusive college classrooms - from the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan

Inclusive teaching - strategies and resources from the Center for Instructional Development and Research at the Univ. of Washington

Teaching students with disabilities - a variety of suggestions for a number of specific disabilities (e.g., ADHD, visual disabilities)

Multicultural teaching - information and strategies from the Center for Research on Teaching and Learning at the Univ of Michigan

Universal Design for Learning - "is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone--not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs."


Problem Students and Disruptive Behavior

"Managing hot moments in the classroom" - some good advice for dealing with conflicts and emotional moments

Incivility in the college classroom - a variety of strategies and resources

"Top ten tips for addressing sensitive topics and maintaining civility in the classroom" - from the Center for Teaching and Faculty Development at San Francisco State University

Difficult students: Four case studies

"Lost in the crowd: Helping individual students" - from the Teaching Resource Center at the University of Virginia


Promoting Academic Integrity

Strategies and tools for preventing/addressing academic dishonesty - from the Center for Teaching and Learning at Berkeley

Academic Integrity - links for instructors and students - particularly recommended is list of suggestions for encouraging academic integrity

A variety of good resources on academic integrity in the classroom - from the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan

"Promoting academic integrity in the classroom" - good essay describing the issues as well as best practices


Plagiarism tutorials

University of Texas
University of Southern California
Indiana University
Rutgers University
University of Southern Mississippi
Bates College
Paraphrasing assignment - This is a very well designed exercise for students in which they are provided with original passages and two sample paraphrasings of each passage. Students are asked to rate the acceptability of each paraphrase and explain their ratings.

Self-tests for students (Do you know what it is?)

Plagiarism quiz - from Argosy University

Self-test - from Hong Kong University

Other resources

"Why plagiarism doesn't bother me all..." - a provocative essay by Gerald Nelms

"Educating students about plagiarism" - a set of materials provided by the Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology to teach students about plagiarism

Plagiarism detection services - a side-by-side comparison chart of several of the most popular sites where faculty can send papers to check to see if they have been plagiarized, from a presentation by Liz Johnson

Avoiding plagiarism - another good resource for students, including guidelines and examples

Plagiarism resource for students - description of plagiarism and how students can avoid it, with examples - from Paul C. Smith

Plagiarism - another excellent resource - clearly explains plagiarism, provides guidelines to avoid it, and provides good side-by-side examples of passages and references correctly versus incorrectly cited


Promoting Study and Learning Skills

In-class note-taking skills - good list of advice for students


Metacognition (awareness of and thinking about one's thinking)

"Helping students link effort and performance" - Here's a good article in the APS Observer about how teachers can assist students who believe they put a lot of effort into a task but do not end up with good performance. Here is an article the first one reminded me of that I use often and has a great title: "Why people fail to recognize their own incompetence." It summarizes research finding that our weaker students not only are weak, but also can't identify when their performance is weak. Unfortunately, those same students are often the ones who don't know how to fix their performance even if it is pointed out to them that it is weak. The first article gives some good suggestions about helping such students.


Using Technology in Instruction

video Using video for instructional purposes - (29:30) - This video presentation describes several ways video clips found or created by instructors or generated by students can be used in face-to-face or online courses.

Creating a YouTube playlist - Watch a video explaining how to string a series of videos together - from James A. Therrell

video Using technology and collaboration to engage students - (16:27) an experienced teacher "discusses how he revised a course to increase student motivation and engagement using project-based learning and technology tools, such as blogs and wikis."

Ten instructional technology tools - This article provides a brief overview of some newer technologies instructors are using such as blogs, wikis, and classroom response systems (clickers). Here are links to more information on some of these tools.


Video tutorials - Here are 55 YouTube videos covering a wide range of topics designed for the newest user of Blackboard to the most veteran user. 


Accessible Technology  (Using technology in such a way that all students, including those with disabilities, can take advantage of it)

video Improving accessibility of documents and media - excellent video tutorials and other resources on how to make Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and PDF documents more accessible - from The California State Universities

Making instructional materials accessible - from CSU-Long Beach

Creating accessible web pages - from The California State Universities

Accessibility and Usability Guide - extensive resources from Penn State University

PowerPoint and Prezi


Drawing on PowerPoint slides - from Sue Frantz

"Adapting PowerPoint lectures for online delivery: Best practices" - an essay from Faculty Focus

Pros and cons of PowerPoint - Four essays on the uses and misuses of PowerPoint

Is it really necessary?
Examining PowerPointlessness
A case for PowerPoint as a faculty authoring system
PowerPoint: Not your grandmother's presentations, but is it evil?

"Pedagogically sound use of Prezi" - from the American Psychological Association


Lecture Capture

What is it? Lecture capture is the process of videotaping or audiotaping a lecture from class or creating a mini-lecture to be shared online with students before or after a class. Such online lectures can serve as review for students, or serve as additional lecture material, or serve as the primary lecture material so class time can be used for more interactive experiences.

Lecture capture: A guide for effective use -- A good description of lecture capture, uses of it, issues to consider, and suggestions for implementation


Instructional Blogging

Setting up a blog for your course - This good description uses WordPress as the blog platform - from Dakin Burdick

Interactive Class Polling/Quizzing
(e.g., Clickers, cell phones) - Students can simply use their cell phones to respond to quiz questions.  It is very easy to set up quiz questions that can then be brought up on screen by visiting your account at  Students respond to the questions by texting a code number, and the student responses immediately appear on the screen.  No clickers needed. is free to use with groups of 40 or fewer students.  Consult NCC faculty member Jon Mueller about this tool.

video How two systems are used by faculty -- (4:13) a brief description from two faculty on how they use and to engage and assess student learning

Overview of clickers - what they are and how they are used, and some additional reading

video Use of clickers - (5:51) good description of how clickers can be used in the classroom

 Use of clickers to get students to teach each other -  includes a lot of good information on how to use clickers or the cell phone tools mentioned above, including work by Richard Mazur

Teaching with clickers



Rubric for evaluating tweets for educational purposes


Online Discussions

Crafting questions for online discussions


Software Tutorials and Other Tips

video Microsoft Office products -- video tutorials from Microsoft

Webpage design using HTML -- beyond the basics - from IUPUI

video Finding images in the public domain -- (3:04) Here's a simple way to use Google image search to find images that are free to use.

Have a link to good resources on teaching?  Please e-mail the Center.