The following pages offer guidance and suggestions for effective teaching at Columbia Business School; these teaching best practices were sourced from our very own CBS Faculty. For a brief summary of this information, check out this Quick Guide for Teaching Best Practices at CBS.
Know Your Students
Learn about your students, their past professional experiences, and career goals so you can call on them by name and refer to their experiences in discussions.
- Download your class “Photo Roster” from SeatGen in Canvas to help you learn students’ names.
- Download student profiles from SeatGEN by performing the following steps:
- Log into your Canvas course. Click "New seatGEN" in the left column.
- Click the "Reporting" button for each individual course section you are teaching
- Click the "Select Format Option" dropdown and choose "Student Profile"
- Click "Create Report" and download the report as a PDF. (Note - you may need to modify your browser's "pop-up" settings to allow this URL to generate the report)
- Use NameCoach to correctly pronounce the names of your students and find their self-reported pronouns, so you can feel confident calling on them in class. If you are uncertain of someone's pronouns, use gender-neutral pronouns (e.g., they/them) or their name.
- Learn fun facts for each student via a Canvas Discussion Board question, a short survey, or polling question, so you can use this information in a way which allows the students to get to know one another better.
- Ask students why they are taking your course and what they want to get out of it.
- Spend time getting to know your students by leaving time before or after class to chat informally with them.
Remember to allow opportunities for your students to get to know you as well. Before day 1, reflect on how you will introduce yourself to your students. What can you share with them in terms of your personal and professional background, and how your background relates to the course content?
Set expectations on Day One
- “I will start classes on time.”
- “Expect cold calling.”
- “Polls will be used in classes and you should use your smartphone to participate then put your smartphone away when instructed.”
- Use consistent language in the syllabus.
- Remind them that classroom culture is one that you want to co-create with them and they are just as responsible for their peers’ classroom experience as you are.
- Review course learning objectives (see next page for info on Course Roadmaps).
- For your reference, see this sample classroom expectations slide.
- Familiarize yourself with CBS Core Culture and the Honor Code. Restate Core Culture on day 1 and again when necessary.
Explain reasoning behind expectations
- These standards are to increase the class’ social welfare and allow for diverse perspectives to be shared.
- The purpose of cold calling is to maintain a level of preparedness in the class. (see "Plan & Teach Engaging Classes" for info on cold calling)
- Start classes on time.
- Have a beginning of class ritual.
- Clap to signal the start of class.
- Play music or video as people enter and/or exit the class.
- Role model the behavior you expect.
- “I know there is a ton going on for you all right now. I need your attention for the next 90 minutes.”
- “I know that having a long class at the end of the day is tiring. I will make sure to give you sufficient breaks so we can stay focused.”
Be warm-demanding (stern, but caring)
- Be clear about how you want to run your class, but do so in a caring and respectful way.
- Be firm, but smile.
Map Your Course & Key Learnings
The purpose is to show students where they are in the course and what they will learn that session. Here are some ways to do this:
- Use a Course Roadmap to create a visual framework for the course.
- Start class by summarizing key concepts from last class and highlighting key concepts for the day’s lesson and how they build off the previous class.
- Be clear when describing key concepts/takeaways (i.e., from “Today you will learn about confidence intervals.” to “Today you will learn how to quantify uncertainty.”).
- Follow-up key learnings with current and relevant examples.
- Capture student discussion by taking notes and sharing with students.
Plan & Teach Engaging Classes
Manage the Classroom
Pause before giving feedback
- Manage your own emotions. Ensure you are calm and feel in control of your emotions by first taking a deep breath.
- Recognize that a student’s reaction may not be about you.
- Don’t get upset if the discussion meanders a bit or moves in a different direction.
- Consider 1:1 or group feedback depending on what is more appropriate given the issue being addressed.
- If you do see someone is distracted, engage with them - “Oh wow, the Yankees are doing well!”
Hold students accountable
- “Would this behavior fly at work?”
- Email students who are consistently late or distracted to let them know it’s disruptive to others.
- Work with Cluster leadership to address consistent student misbehavior.
Use carrots and sticks
- You have X points for participation on Day One – you lose X for every time you don’t attend class or you don’t display your name.”
- Acknowledge and be appreciative when students do well.
- Cold call on students without their names properly displayed.
- Ask TA or academic rep to send an email or make a class announcement.
Create a supportive environment where all students have equal and equitable access to learning
- Please read our inclusive teaching checklist which lists several practices for leading an inclusive classroom. For example,
- Choose course materials with examples and images that reflect the student body diversity.
- Use a variety of teaching methods (lecture, discussion, multimedia, small group work) and assessment methods.
- Substitute gender binary language for more inclusive language such as “everybody,” “folks,” or “this person.”
- Learn preferred student names and how to pronounce them; and encourage your students to do the same for each other.
- Avoid making generalizations about students and their experiences.
Be Transparent with Feedback and Grading
The goal of feedback to support the learning process, by helping students understand how well they are grasping course content and allow them to track their progress toward established goals and course-correct early on.
Create a clear grading rubric
- Communicate your grading rubric on Day One. Speak to what it takes to do well in your course.
- Clarify what will be required in terms of deliverables and when.
- Clarify how participation will be tracked and graded.
- Please reference our guidance for how to vary up your grading.
Give students plenty of opportunities to confirm their learning
- Concept Checks: can help students self-assess whether they are keeping up with the class.
- One-minute Papers: Pose a question before a teaching session begins, such as, “What was the most important point in this lecture?” and have students respond after.
- Homework: should challenge students to think more critically and be more difficult than the final to help make sure students truly understand course concepts.
- Practice Problems: should be representative of what will be on the final.
- Projects: helps students to apply learnings in practical ways.
- Exams: should be an accurate reflection of what you want students to have learned from your course.
Make feedback positive, encouraging, and constructive
- “Excellent job analyzing the strategy of this company. One way to strengthen your case is to show the pros and cons of each decision to make it clear why your decision is the strongest.”
- Consider giving students the opportunity to redo their assignment and submit for regrading.
- Use the Announcement Tool in Canvas to provide feedback to the entire class, especially after a major assignment or exam. Post a brief update of what was done well, topics commonly missed, and resources to help foster improvement and encouragement to re-visit key course concepts.
- Make feedback about the students’ work, and not the students themselves.
- Help students see assessment not as an end in itself, but as a tool to gauge learning, so they will know and be able to do worthwhile things for their future careers.
Helpful feedback should always be:
Feedback should be given consistently and often throughout the course, so students can identify where to focus their efforts. One way to do this is through poll questions at the beginning of class and/or concept check quizzes in-between classes, which can be preprogrammed to be graded instantly. Frequent, low-stakes assessments, such as practice problem sets, provide more opportunities for students to practice new skills or demonstrate knowledge and get feedback. It also provokes less anxiety because they carry less weight in a student’s grade than a high-stakes midterm or final exam.
Feedback not only details precisely what is incorrect, but offers actionable advice to rectify one’s misunderstanding. Explain what constitutes good work, how the student’s current work compares to that, and how to close the gap between the two. For example, “I would have liked to hear more details of why you chose this framework over the other ones we discussed in this course.”
Affirm what the students did well to balance out the discussion of flaws in their work. When possible provide a “feedback sandwich,” layering corrective feedback in-between positive feedback.
Limit the amount of feedback so that it is actually used. This may require addressing only the most pressing items of concern in the first round, waiting to address other issues in work submitted later.
For feedback to be useful, it has to be provided as early on in the course as possible. Feedback should also be provided immediately after work is completed and in time for students to use it on their next deliverable. A best practice is to provide learners feedback within one week of the assignment submission. If you anticipate not being able to meet the deadline you set for yourself, communicate that with learners.