Teaching Matters

Volume 6 Issue 2
March 4 2013

Teaching Matters is issued fortnighty during semester

THE FIRST LECTURE: some very practical tips

This issue we hear from Business School Lecturer Angela Hecimovic and Associate Professor Rosina Mladenovic on their approaches to Lecture No. 1.

They share with us their very practical ideas on how to set up for a semester of successful learning in lectures, with ideas applicable to traditional, interactive and team-based lectures alike.

Reflecting on their practices, Angela and Rosina explore ways to achieve what research shows students say they most need their lecturers to be

organised, masters of delivery, respectful of students and responsive to their needs, approachable, fostering of a spirit of enquiry, adept at dealing with difficult questions, able to clarify academic requirements, able to show an individual lecture's relevance to the whole course and the outside world, good-humoured and, above all, able to create an environment conducive to learning.

For extensive qualitative data on this please see, for instance, Delaney, J. et al (2010), Students' Perceptions of Effective Teaching in Higher Education, http://www.uwex.edu/disted/conference/Resource_library/handouts/28251_10H.pdf

The Business School's Associate Professor Rosina Mladenovic and Lecturer Angela Hecimovic.

Also in this issue:


READ MORE from Angela Hecimovic

READ MORE from Rosina


Part A - Taking care of yourself
Insights from Angela Hecimovic

For all the New Lecturers about to commence their journey you need to be conscious that “Teaching Matters” and “Your Health Matters”. They are equal priorities! Here are some useful tips before you commence your first lecture:

  • BE KIND TO YOURSELF and remember that you will be nervous the first time and perhaps subsequent times - this is quite normal for even the veteran lecturers. Do not fret as you can use this nervous energy and adrenalin to deliver an exciting high energy lecture. Now to maintain that high energy level in that first lecture (and for all lectures!) you will need to make sure you sometimes BREATHE, SLOW DOWN, regather your thoughts whilst lecturing by pausing and have a glass of water if you ever feel overwhelmed. One of the best techniques that you can utilise if you lose your train of thought is to ASK THE AUDIENCE what they think and trust me you will be surprised as there are some clever students out there ready to engage with you!
  • YOU ARE CLEVER and most of the time you will know more than the students in the lecture room. So use this knowledge and remember to get this knowledge and intelligence out to students YOU need to be well prepared before the first lecture. I often practice in front of the mirror and time myself to make sure that I not only have enough time to cover all the relevant material but that what I'm saying flows and makes sense. The students of course will really be the ones to gauge whether you are making sense in the lecture - so watch their body language and do not be afraid to ask them. I often take a mid lecture break and allow students to come and ask Qs. IF I get a crowd of students surrounding me in the break or at the end of the lecture - it usually indicates that I need to work on the delivery of the content as it was not clear to most of the student cohort. Delivering the material in a coherent fashion means that you are simultaneously stimulating student interest in the material.
  • BRING THE TEACHING AIDS such as the USB, whiteboard markers iPad, pens and that water. These are some of the essentials to take with you in order to deliver the lecture, so do not forget them. If you do forget them or that dreaded USB does not work and asks you whether you want to reformat it - do not press that panic button. As a rule I always email my lecture PowerPoint slides to myself and that way I can access them anywhere. Another great tip is to visit the lecture venue before you start your first lecture so you can get familiar with the technology available.
  • CREATE A POSITIVE STUDENT ATMOSPHERE one where the students feel connected to you as a human, as a lecturer and as an inspirational educator. One of the best ways to achieve this positive vibe is to arrive early to your first lecture and chat to students as they enter the lecture theatre - say things like 'welcome', and take notice of students - are some carrying lots of materials? Check out their technology - laptops, IPad, and make some light conversation as they enter. You will be surprised at the reaction and the impact that you can make to the mood. I like to dress up and sit at the back of the lecture room and surprise them with my entry to the front of the room - do not be afraid to be yourself, let your personality shine and remember to SMILE, it is a great rewarding opportunity to lecture and enhance the student experience.


THE FIRST LECTURE: some very practical tips

Part B - Taking care of the students
Insights from Rosina Mladenovic

I completely agree with Angela. Taking care of yourself is the first step to being a fabulous lecturer! As the flight attendant on the plane says, “in an emergency fit your own oxygen mask first and then assist others.” In part A, Angela shared her insights about being gentle on yourself, knowing how the technology works, highlighting the importance of preparation as well as truly believing that you have the knowledge and ability! The only thing I want to add is to reassure you that you don't have to have all of the answers to all of the questions “on demand”. If a student asks a tricky question - and believe me they do - I've had some really challenging ones over the last 24 years, don't feel like you have to answer it on the spot. I can't count the times I've said, “I'll get back to you on that one next week - I just need to look something up or ask a colleague.” Students are happy with that response. They don't need you to “bluff” your way through and possibly give them the wrong answer - so take the pressure off yourself about having to know everything! Once you've taken care of yourself....it's time to think about taking care of the students.

“Teaching matters, your health matters and your students matter”

  • BUILDING A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR STUDENTS is key to your success as a learning facilitator. Angela ended her section by sharing how she personally welcomes students into the room to create a rapport and a relationship with them. This is so important as sets the foundation for the whole course. In the first lecture help your students come to trust you and know that you have a genuine interest in their learning. It's a cynical world we live in and students often believe the teachers are somehow “out to get us”, “to fail us” and most commonly, “to write exams to trick us!” Safety and care are key for students. They need to feel safe to ask any question and to answer any question in the lecture without feeling ridiculed or vulnerable. It needs to be more than you stating “feel free to ask or answer questions.” Many lecturers say that but then roll their eyes at a question, show clear agitation when responding or even respond to a student's answer by saying “Wrong! Has anyone got the right answer?” By explaining and demonstrating how you value every question and answer, especially incorrect answers, gives you a chance to explain the common misconceptions that students have and ensures they will be corrected so students get it right in the exam! After you set the stage in the first lecture, follow through in the subsequent weeks by being genuinely positive about every answer especially when it is clearly wrong. I use statements like “I'm so glad you gave me that answer, many students think that way, but in this unit you need to think this other way” or “fabulous answer that reminds me to explain this again to make sure everyone understands it” or “if I had a for every time a student gave me that answer I'd almost be a millionaire” .... “Great, I can see how you might arrive at that answer but in actual fact ....” I'm sure you'll find your own way and your own words - the key is to create a safe, interactive and open learning environment, to be genuine and respect all students.
  • EXPLAIN WHAT STUDENTS MOST WANT TO KNOW which of course is what they can expect in the unit. Make some time to provide a comprehensive explanation of the assessment, providing reassurance by outlining the many sources of support they will have to complete the tasks. We all know students are focussed on assessments. Some lectures think this is a negative thing. I think it's fabulous as if we structure our assessments in a way that is clear to the students, allows them to engage in such a way that helps them to learn and allows students to demonstrate their learning, then we have a win-win situation! Teachers and students are focussed on the same thing - learning and the demonstration of learning outcomes in assessments! It's also helpful to make sure your expectations and the students' expectations for the lecture are the same. Begin by inviting the students to share their expectations of you and of themselves in relation to lectures. Then, share your expectations of them in the lecture and what the students can expect from you. If lectures are to be interactive, explain what that means and how it will work and most importantly - why they are doing it - what is the benefit for students of participating in lectures? Don't assume they know the answer to that question.
  • PROVIDE A COURSE OVERVIEW so that students understand how each topic fits into the big picture for the unit and where this course is going. This is so important, as you may recall yourself when you were a student, each lecture seems like an isolated piece and it's easy to get lost and hard to see how things link together. Being lost is when students can feel disengaged. The first lecture allows you to paint the big picture of the journey you'll be taking the students on. I find a 'road trip' a helpful analogy. Imagine you're a bus driver and you're trying to explain to the passengers that they'll be taking a trip from Sydney to Perth over the next 13 weeks. If you show them a detailed road map of Sydney, they might recognise where they are now, but will have no clue where they are going next, let alone the destination. If you show your passengers an Atlas of Australia and point out where Sydney is and then where Perth is and some of the main towns in between they'll have a better perspective of the big picture. So like this bus driver, to help the passengers know where they are each week and where they are going to - you can show the students the course overview (atlas) and the detailed road maps week by week. My sincere best wishes for safe and happy travels!



The Business School's Associate Professor Rosina Mladenovic and Lecturer Angela Hecimovic

It may seem impossible for a lecturer to learn the names of all students in their lectures, especially where student numbers are high. Yet, as is well documented, the benefits of being able to acknowledge students by name are manifold: the relationship fostering it engenders undoubtedly enhances student learning. Some techniques for the brave-hearted considering taking on this “impossible” task are:

  • Use of photographs that you organise to be taken alongside class (with permission and assistance of students) or for students to bring, for instance to post on an index card. For example, see Trout, J. (2009), The High-Tech Way to Remember Student Names http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3200/CTCH.57.3.184-184
  • Use of index cards (as above) alphabetised For an example see, http://tep.uoregon.edu/resources/faqs/managingclimate/lcnames.html
  • Having students say their name when volunteering or called upon to speak
  • Asking students to sit in the same seat for the first few lectures and then,
  • Memorising a row or two of students and their names per week
  • Devising mnemonics for remembering names, perhaps with student assistance and related to course content...


How to maintain student and teacher motivation and how to detect and address de-motivation? If you would like to contribute an idea or two, be videoed doing so and/or share Learning and Teaching literature on this topic please contact the editor, Susan Ellicott-Darke by Monday 11th March, 2013.


2013 Unit of Study Coordinator checklists and Lunch and Learn and Tutor Development Program information is now available at your DEO office.

Teaching Matters disseminates information about learning and teaching to the University of Sydney Business School. Your contributions and feedback on matters of learning and teaching are welcome. Please contact the editor Susan Ellicott-Darke.