Best Practices for Teaching First-Time College Students

Strategies to help you support new students as they transition to UB.

Best practice 1:

Use content to engage and teach skills, not as an end itself.

Engage students curiosity through authentic and relevant content and help them develop the specific skills integral to good studentship. Organize your class to teach these skills. For example, while reading loads will vary from instructor to instructor, 2-3 academic articles and/or chapters a week is the suggested benchmark.  

Best practice 2:

Break complex activities into small, more manageable steps.

Support your students understanding by making implicit expectations explicit. Students are learning how to navigate university expectations. To help students succeed it is often necessary to scaffold and model how to successfully participate in an activity or complete an assignment. For example, model how to analyze an article or break down an essay into manageable steps. Then, give them time to practice this in class with your guidance before expecting them to do it successfully on their own.

Best practice 3:

Share the connection between course content and learning outcomes.

Identify how the instructional activities, assignments and assessments connect to the learning outcomes. Share with your students what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how these skills will help them learn and grow. Revisit these outcomes on a regular basis, not just at the beginning of the semester. For example, don’t just integrate an activity into your course just for the sake of it. Each activity, assignment and assessment should be relevant and interesting, but most importantly, aligned with the course learning outcomes.

Best practice 4:

Communicate with your students.

Establish a supportive and effective learning environment by communicating regularly with your students. Be available both in person and virtually to accommodate busy schedules.  Frequent feedback is vital. Have your students share their experiences with you. Make sure you’re checking in with students regularly. For example, consider having you and your students provide feedback to each other around the midpoint of the semester. Leverage the communication tools within UB Learns, including announcements and direct messaging to groups and individual students. Create assignments in the course site to ensure that due dates appear on the student calendar tool and use the UB Learns gradebook to help students know where they stand throughout the semester. Creating an empathic and supportive environment will increase both student engagement and success.

Best practice 5:

Be empathic. Be encouraging. Utilize university resources.

Showing your students that you care goes a long way. Your support helps students build confidence and explore pathways and opportunities. While your encouragement is essential, there are numerous university departments that can also help support your students. You can utilize these resources by including them in your syllabus, inviting individuals into your course, and/or collaborating and integrating the resources into your instructional practices. These university resources are included in the following page. Feel free to include this resource in your UB Learns course and/or syllabus.