Ten teaching tips from Prof. John Boothroyd

Ten teaching tips from Prof. John Boothroyd

Prof. John Boothroyd gives teaching tips

Headshot, smiling Caucasian male, balding, glasses

Ever wanted to ask an experienced faculty member how they teach?  Get the secrets they've learned over a long, productive academic career?

Prof. John Boothroyd, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education, revealed those secrets in a one-hour talk on May 14.  It was part of the Award-Winning Teachers on Teaching lecture series sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Learning.

Telling stories from his career with both humor and humility, Boothroyd taught his audience about toxoplasma and etymology as well as teaching and mentoring as he went through "ten useful things it's taken me far too long to get about teaching."

  1. Know your audience.  Boothroyd took shows of hands to find out the affiliation and disciplinary area of the audience of about fifty, and encouraged their contributions throughout his talk.
  2. Know your goals.  Set your goals for your class early and continue to revisit them as you teach.
  3. Set expectations explicitly and collaboratively.  Boothroyd tells his TAs and students both orally and in writing what he expects from them.  "Be mindful, be intentional," he advises.
  4. Use the board.  Writing on the board slows you down and gives students a chance to think about what you're writing.  Also, the material stays visible during the entire lecture instead of disappearing like a PowerPoint slide.
  5. Avoid unconscious bias.  Boothroyd doesn't read student application folders until after he's interviewed them so he can meet them without bias.  Corollary:  know what your own biases are and work actively to neutralize them.
  6. Build connections.  Use images and metaphors to help listeners remember what you're saying.  Boothroyd used a dance metaphor for a Michigan talk on infection, calling two parasites the "Windsor Waltz" and the "Ann Arbor Rave."
  7. Use a little humor.  Be careful not to go into the ridiculous or the satirical, but a little humor also helps students remember and learn.
  8. Bring it home.  Make your message relevant to students by connecting it with something they're already familiar with.
  9. It's all about THEIR success.  When you're a mentor, manager, or teacher, focus on the individual, not the mission.
  10. Use your last slide to full advantage.  When you give a PowerPoint presentation, let the last slide repeat the information people are most likely to ask about in the Q&A session.  Then they can refer to it for the terms or data they want to ask about.

View the video on the Boothroyd lecture page.