Confidence in the Classroom: Ten Maxims for New Teachers Reviewed work(s): Source:

Confidence in the Classroom: Ten Maxims for New Teachers
Author(s): James Eison
Reviewed work(s):
Source: College Teaching, Vol. 38, No. 1 (Winter, 1990), pp. 21-25
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
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Teaching.
http://www.jstor.org
in
Confidence
Maxims
Ten
the
for New
James
"A teach
Henry Adams proclaimed,
er affects eternity: he can never tell
where his influence stops." The truth
fulness of this observation
is known to
its implications
teachers;
experienced
can be profoundly
how
intimidating,
ever,
to
new
or
inexperienced
faculty.
The possibility
that eternity might be
influenced by one's first days in the
classroom
is likely to reduce a new in
structor's initial feeling of eager antici
pation to a vague sense of desperation
and despair. Though much has been
written
about
effectiveness
teaching
Eison
Gleason
1987,
(see
1984, 1985,
1988 for annotated
Weimer
listings of
some of the best articles and books of
this type), and some excellent advice
for new teachers has appeared
in this
journal (Browne and Keely 1985), sur
prisingly little has been written to help
new
instructors
their natural
ing
ten
new
teachers
and
face,
insecurities.
conquer,
The
follow
can
recommendations
assist
in their quest to become
both professionally
effective and per
sonally self-confident;
suggested read
ings to further empower new faculty
members
have
also
been
provided.
1 : To Feel Confident,
Act Confident
well-established
chology is that actions
finding in psy
give rise to feel
One
James
Eison
is the director
for Teaching
State
Missouri
and
Vol. 38/No.
1
21
of
Learning
University
deau.
of
at
the Center
Southeast
Cape
Girar
Classroom:
Teachers
Eison
ings. For example, William James (1892,
in Talks to Teachers on
1958) noted
to Students on Some
and
Psychology;
that
there is "no im
of Life's Ideals,
pression without expression."
Thus, to
feel confident
in the classroom the neo
phyte instructor must begin acting con
"Easier
said than done" or
fidently.
"How does one begin?"
the doubtful
reader might rightfully reply. Increased
confidence
about one's
teaching
result when the following general
are implemented
ommendations
practiced
will
rec
and
Why
You Want
to Teach
The greatest prestige often goes to
those professions
that provide the most
substantial
financial
rewards; by this
to be
leaves much
criterion,
teaching
desired. Furthermore,
teaching is intel
and physically
lectually,
emotionally,
demanding;
teaching excellence also re
an inordinate
of
investment
quires
time.
For
structor
"Why
these
reasons,
every
should ask himself
do I want to teach?"
thoughtfully
upon
Teaching
without
3: Learn
Associated
the Characteristics
with Effective
Teaching
several recent reports and
Despite
books criticizing the quality of Ameri
can education at all levels, most faculty
can recall the positive
members
impact
that at least one teacher had upon their
lives.
careers
choose
who
Many
in
education
regularly.
2: Examine
articulate professors
who have faced
this question
should consult
the pro
vocative essays written by Peter Beidler
(1984) and Maryellen Gleason
(1982).
the
new
in
or herself,
and reflect
answer.
a personally
com
answer
to this question
can
pelling
to
lead
tedium
and
readily
burnout;
answer
creating a clear and meaningful
to the question,
will
teach?"
"Why
give rise to increased feelings of self
and possibly
to a lasting
confidence
to the profession.
commitment
Young
in reading
interested
faculty members
the reflections of two experienced
and
have been blessed by
higher
their relationships
with
outstanding
their
faculty
during
years.
college
of these relationships
can
Memories
provide valuable
insights into effective
should use
teaching; new instructors
these
as
memories
personal
guides.
A large and growing body of research
literature offers
in
the inexperienced
structor further insight into the charac
teristics of effective
college
teaching.
This literature should be read and its
into teaching
findings
incorporated
For
an excellent
in
practice.
example,
recent text entitled Mastering
the Tech
niques of Teaching,
Joseph Lowman
a two-dimensional
describes
(1984)
of effective
model
classroom
instruc
ex
I is "intellectual
tion. Dimension
refers
to
which
the
citement,"
clarity
of
the
the
instructor's
positive
teacher
mension
rapport,"
can
have
and
communication,
emotional
on
students,
impact
and
the
Di
to "interpersonal
II refers
occurs
which
when
the
teacher promotes
emotions
positive
and avoids arousing negative ones. This
model
is based upon both an analysis
of published
di
studies and Lowman's
rect observations
of
(and videotaping)
award-winning
A
professors.
second
treatment of this topic has
outstanding
offered by Arthur Chick
been
recently
in
ering and Zelda Gamson
(1987)
"Seven Principles
for Good Practice in
''
Education.
Undergraduate
In additon, hundreds of studies have
student
examined
ratings of courses
and instructors to identify the key ele
ments of teaching effectiveness.
These
studies (e.g., Burdsal and Bardo,
1986)
im
reveal the following
consistently
dimensions:
portant
or
structure,
(1) organization,
clarity,
teacher-stu
(2)
or rapport, (3) teach
or lecturing
ing skill, communication,
or course diffi
ability,
(4) workload
dent
interaction
culty, and (5) grading examinations.
Other representative
studies in this area
have been discussed by Eison and Step
hens (1988), McKeachie
(1986). Mur
a
in
controlled
ob
ray (1985),
carefully
servational study, reported that as few
as ten behaviors predict the most of the
in student ratings of instruc
variance
tors. These behaviors
included: speaks
uses hu
or emphatically,
expressively
varies
mor,
facial
important
student
and
progress,
concern
shows
encourages
moves
comments,
stresses
expressions,
points,
questions
lec
turing, praises students for good ideas,
asks questions of class, is friendly and
for
easy to talk to. Three suggestions
new teachers (Eison 1988), based upon
Murray's
findings,
are:
and
studies
Murray's
them
to
tion.
Systematically
class
and
planning
prepara
a
emulating
key to confident
teaching is ef
planning; planning begins with
Fac
setting clear goals and objectives.
not
enter
should
with
class
vague
ulty
as much
of
goals such as "finishing
as
a
One
in
Chapter
fifty
possible
ters
or
period"
the
before
"covering
next
exam."
and
movement).
expressions,
dramatic!
2.
exer
self-assessment
activities,
critical
cises),
(2) teaching
specific
or speaking
skills,
thinking, writing,
(3) examining one's attitudes and val
ues, and (4) identifying the significant
can be
that
personal
implications
in the
found
course
er the diversity
content.
and
instructional
process
aging
and
your
3. Care
by
asking
participation
a
providing
main
points.
concern
actively.
for
certain
students
students'
The
in
the
can
learning
encour
teacher's
a
Demonstrate
visible
to
visible
recognize
human
that
being.
you
are an ap
and
clearly
Few
observe
will
self-confidence
signs
of
students'
students'
a
than
satisfaction
growth.
5: Teach
Less,
is what
remains
one
when
has
for
occurs.
retention
long-term
For
exam
ple, H. Rickard et al. (1988), in a study
of introductory psychology
students at
the University
of Alabama,
found that
after completing
their
four months
first psychology
student had
course,
factual
of
little more
knowledge
psychology
(i.e., 8%) than did a con
trol group of students who had never
a
taken
course.
psychology
Your
ef
to insure that what is taught is
taught well will be rewarded by in
creased long-term retention; hence the
forts
"Teach
recommendation
6: Use Active
less,
Learning
better."
Strategies
Regularly
About 25 years ago, Wilbert McKea
in the Handbook
chie wrote
of Re
search on Teaching (Gage 1963), "Col
lege teaching and lecturing have been
so long associated
that when one pic
tures a college professor
in the class
room, he almost
inevitably pictures
him as lecturing." Unfortunately,
the
of
numerous
recommendations
researchers
of
several
and
recent
national
enhance
more
seminars.
graduate
gotten everything he learned in school."
A few brave researchers have empiri
the amount of knowl
cally examined
edge retained by students after comple
tion of a typical undergraduate
course;
the data suggest that shockingly
little
the
Furthermore,
things
of
remembrances
are frustrating
But, such presentations
to students and faculty alike. Introduc
rather
should
introduce
tory classes
than overwhelm!
Albert Einstein once said, "Educa
findings
to main
by structuring
objectives
in terms of specific knowledge,
atti
tudes, skills, and experiences,
faculty
progress.
questions,
and
comments,
clear
emphasis
in
eas
the
objectives,
interest.
great
found
variety
instructional
actively
your
students,
recognize
achievements
their academic
publicly
that
to insure
hard
and growth,
work
proachable
tain
members
Make
actively.
students
engage
Teach
to
facial
(e.g.,
Fear not the
nonverbally
chap
more
useful approach
is to formulate
spe
for each
cific instructional
objectives
class session. Gronlund
(1978) provides
a concise
treatment of how to state
course
They
objectives
effectively.
need not be restricted solely to material
in the required textbook.
contained
Consider ways to address objectives
such as (1) providing opportunities
for
demonstra
learning (e.g.,
experiential
ier it will be for the instructor
humor)
six
A
troductory
tion
One
fective
one's
an expressive,
1. Spack
Become
actively.
stu
who
enthusiastic
captures
speaker
both
dents'
attention
(e.g.,
verbally
re
4: Enter Each Class with Specific
Educational
Goals and Objectives
minute
in in
As a result, freshmen
classes may receive detailed
students.
pro
search-based model of effective teach
ing will support the recommendation:
To feel confident,
act confident.
tions,
for
while
about
Eison's
vide both a conceptual
framework and
a list of specific teaching skills that can
be used to improve classroom perform
ance. New faculty members
should re
flect upon
these findings and apply
Better
New faculty often demonstrate
love
of their discipline,
and enthusiasm
for
teaching,
by sharing everything
they
know about a given topic with their
Task
reports
(e.g., AAC
on
General
Education
1988,
Group
National
Association
of Student Per
sonnel Administrators
1987, Study
of Excellence
Group on the Conditions
in American
1984)
Higher Education
add darkness to this picture. They all
support Patricia Cross's (1987) conclu
sion that "When
students are actively
involved in the learning task, they learn
more
than
when
they
are
passive
recip
as in most
ients of instruction,"
lec
tures. The implications of this finding
for faculty were perhaps best described
that
by Carl Schorske who suggested
22
COLLEGE TEACHING
the test of a good
a noun
regard
learning'
as a thing
If as a noun,
and
passed
your
truths,
is, "Do
teacher
as
to be
then
along,
neatly
you
a verb?
or
you
to
your
as a
students. But if you see iearning'
is different"
verb!?the
process
(cited
inMcCleery
1986).
students in
Active
learning "involves
and
thinking about the
doing things
are
things they
doing" (Eison and Bon
well
active
learning strategies
1988);
provide students with the opportunity
to do such things as completing
short,
in
in-class writing activities,
engaging
class discussions,
taking field
exercises
laboratory
extended
trips,
or
completing
self-assessment
or
debates
ing
exercises,
role-playing
in games
participating
activities,
conduct
activities,
using
and
simulation
in
computer-assisted
control.
for new
It is also helpful
present
packaged,
and
ization
processed
can ruin the per
plans for organ
type of environment
best-laid
fectionist's
one
that
remember
to good
secret
to
teachers
teach
ing, passed on through the ages, is "to
all your life
appear to have known
in the day."
earlier
learned
what you
often forces
That is to say, necessity
the new instructor to stay only a few
days ahead of his or her best students.
In such instances,
the new
faculty
most
a few
tion
can
to
seconds
silent
of
students'
at
contempla
one's
enhance
greatly
answer
can
instructors
experienced
test,
ability
questions.
New instructors should not be afraid
to admit to themselves and to their stu
that they
dents that there is something
do not know. But in the words of my
Furman
Charles
Brewer,
colleague
al
"Endeavor
University
psychologist,
to
reduce
the
with
ways
frequency
which
you
must
so."
say
some
flexibility into your class preparations.
involves a dynamic, often
Build Good teaching
interchange between you and the
unpredictable,
students.
struction activities, making
individual
or small group pr?sentions,
taking tests
of either the graded or ungraded vari
ety.
Several
bers
can
learning
ways
practical
to
learn
or
large
1986).
mandatory
been
for
reading
all
are
who
their
in
instruc
Be a Perfectionist
7: Don't
can lead to
touch of perfectionism
carefully
class
prepared
ried to excess,
is
de
Frederick
(1981,
articles
should be
in improving
terested
tional effectiveness.
A
member
active
small?have
by Peter
two
These
scribed
mem
their classes?
into
strategies
whether
faculty
incorporate
to
certain
however,
a
destroy
car
sessions;
perfectionism
teacher's
self
little has been
confidence.
Surprisingly
about
written
(Burns
perfectionism
1980, Pacht
1984). Meier and Sheffler
(1984) have identified four traits com
observed among perfectionists:
monly
to details, overplanning,
overattention
and inflexibility
in re
indecisiveness,
to
lating
neither
people.
These
behaviors
associated
with
teaching
lence
nor
teem.
Furthermore,
room
is an
the
of
enhancement
because
ever-changing
are
excel
self-es
the
class
environment,
involves a dynamic
teaching
the teacher and
between
interchange
his or her students, as well as the inter
change that occurs among the students
effective
As
themselves.
is often
highly
Vol. 38/No.
1
a
result,
the
unpredictable,
23
classroom
and this
not
need
he
despair?rather,
or she should simply keep working.
In
structors
need
that
remember
only
"when"
something was learned is less
important to good teaching than that
the instructor was able to explain the
material clearly during the class period.
New teachers often ask, "How
long
will it take before I feel that I am doing
a really great job?" In response to this
to remember
it is tempting
question,
the observation
of Eddie Cantor,
the
great
who
showman,
an
as
that
a
it took him "20 years to be
performer
come
noted
success."
overnight
The
expe
riences of many
faculty suggest that,
when taught well, students can be an
especially appreciative audience.
8: Be Relaxed
about Admitting
It
When You Don't Know Something
measure
One
is the
tiveness
students
curiosity
instructional
of
ask. Anticipate
and creativity
than
greater
of
number
most
effec
that
questions
that student
will often be
instructors'
knowl
there will be times
edge and experience;
when
will
student
questions
stymie
even
the most
senior
instructor.
In such
the wise instructor does not
situations,
panic; rather, she or he remembers the
ancient Greek
"When
at a
proverb,
loss
as
to how
to go
on,
cough."
Or,
as
9: Ask for Response
from
Students
and Colleagues
to improve
One of the best ways
both teaching
skills and level of self
is to seek feedback
confidence
from
both students and colleagues. Ask stu
dents how well they understood
yester
day's class or last night's homework
ask for a writ
assignment.
Periodically
ten
mous
which
response,
answers
to
may
short
be
by
standard
anony
rating
forms or by asking students to describe
in writing
the three things they have
liked best about the class and the three
strate
they have liked least. Additional
can
to
that
be
used
successfully
gies
gather student feedback have been de
scribed by Eison and Hoover
(1989).
Regrettably,
relatively little has been
written about the use of peer observa
tions to improve
instruction
(Eison
a
1988). Helling
(1988) has developed
useful series of observational
checklists
in three different
types of classes: (1)
teaching through
entation,
lecture),
involvement
(i.e.,
teaching
ventory
through
contains
(i.e., pres
speaking
(2) teaching through
and (3)
discussion),
Each in
questioning.
statements
that
describe good teaching; observers can
use these inventories to check off readi
ly those behaviors seen during the class
The
session.
can
inventories
com
be
trained observers,
pleted by students,
or faculty colleagues
and used by the
alone or in con
member
either
faculty
sultation with the classroom observer.
teacher
And
last, the self-confident
Twain's
will always remember Mark
sage
"When
advice,
you
can't
get
a
any other way, pay your
compliment
of silent re
self one." A few minutes
feedback?after
flection?or
private
each class session can help the new in
structor identify his or her instruction
new skills
al successes,
upon which
later
be
built.
may
that Enthusiasm
10: Remember
and Energy Can Carry the Day
It has been said that teachers can be
into three groups:
divided
(1) those
who make
(2) those
things happen,
and (3)
who watch
things happen,
those who ask, "What
happened?"
The hope is that new faculty will com
leaders of
mit themselves to becoming
the first group and insure that the pos
of a few senior col
sible negativism
leagues does not deter their commit
ment to teaching excellence.
Emerson once noted, "Nothing great
enthu
without
was ever accomplished
In
siasm."
the
an
classroom,
instruc
is often contagious;
lack of enthusiasm.
McKeachie
that,
(1974) has noted
one thing ismore impor
no
"probably
tant in education than the teacher's en
tor's enthusiasm
so too,
is the
and
thusiasm
energy."
texts on college
Grasha
and
1983,
teaching (Fuhrmann
neo
the
do
McKeachie
provide
1986)
val
and
with
instructor
practical
phyte
uable advice. They will help new in
and current
structors recognize that teaching excel
lence requires them to be sensitive and
to critical issues that have
responsive
only
from
recently
received
educational
developers,
and
to
undergraduates
conduct
research
1986)
(Palladino
is
But as noted by Horace, "Wisdom
it is derived from
not wisdom when
is to
That
alone."
books
can
say, much
learned about
teaching excellence
in the
one's
daily experiences
through
A positive
classroom.
attitude,
high
to
and willingness
level of motivation,
reflect on one's teaching will join with
to increase both
texts and experience
and skill.
self-confidence
be
References
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azine
Beyer,
1984. Why
P.
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B. K.
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Ten
1985.
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N. E.
1978. Stating
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A
in
33(1):8-10.
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Jossey-Bass.
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W.
McCleery,
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McKeachie,
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