Chicago Handbook for Teachers

"All teachers must start somewhere, but teaching that first class can be tough. While college instructors are usually trained extensively in their specific disciplines, they are seldom trained in how to deal with the actual classroom. The authors try to remedy that situation with this manual. Although meant primarily for beginning teachers, this work is so packed with useful information that experienced teachers could also benefit from reading it. Included are the basics, such as how to plan courses and implement lessons, as well as little-known tips. . . . Preparing a syllabus, leading classroom discussions, lecturing, avoiding cheating—it's all here!"—Library Journal
Includes practical information on how to
prepare for, start, and sustain a good classroom discussion
create a clear and informative syllabus
choose effective course materials
deal with passive, voluble, or disruptive students
guide and evaluate students' writing and research
avoid and handle cheating and plagiarism
decide what type of exam to give
craft effective questions
use electronic resources
balance responsibilities as a graduate student and teacher
evaluate your teaching

The table of contents and an excerpt from the introduction are to the right. You may also read online the whole of Chapter 10: Using Electronic Resources for Teaching.

The Chicago Handbook for Teachers:
A Practical Guide to the College Classroom

Alan Brinkley, Betty Dessants, Michael Flamm, Cynthia Fleming, Charles Forcey, and Eric Rothschild


This book has a very simple purpose. It is designed to offer practical advice to teachers of college courses-advice on how to navigate many of the most common challenges they are likely to face in and out of the classroom. We expect it to be particularly helpful to beginning teachers; but we believe experienced teachers will find the book useful and rewarding as well.

The project had its origins in a conversation about teaching at a meeting of the Executive Board of the Organization of American Historians several years ago, when two of the authors were members of the board. There was general agreement among the experienced scholars and teachers present that day that most beginning college instructors-graduate students having their first experiences as teaching assistants, new Ph.D.'s starting their first teaching jobs-received little or no training in how to deal with the classroom before they entered it. Primary and secondary school teachers ordinarily receive teacher training in education schools or departments. College and university teachers, by contrast, are usually trained intensively in their disciplines (history, English, economics, physics, and so on), but seldom in the craft of teaching itself. There is a growing, and heartening, movement in some graduate programs to incorporate teacher training into the traditional curriculum. But it remains the case that many, perhaps most, new college teachers design their courses and enter their classrooms for the first time without very much guidance from anyone. This book was written with them in mind. We call it a "handbook" because, while we think many teachers may wish to read it in its entirety, we believe others may wish to consult it periodically for help in dealing with particular questions or problems.

We do not claim here to present a coherent theory of teaching or learning. There are many such theories, and they are the subject of a large and valuable literature produced by scholars of education and others. Our goal, however, is the simpler one of answering common logistical questions and using our own experiences in the classroom to offer ideas and lessons that we think other teachers might find useful. In ten relatively brief chapters, we have tried to present practical suggestions for dealing with some of the basic aspects of college teaching: designing a course, preparing for the first class, leading a discussion, managing classroom dynamics, delivering a lecture, supervising research and writing, giving and grading exams, evaluating your own teaching, dealing with diversity issues, and making use of new electronic resources.

There are, needless to say, many issues related to teaching that this book does not address, and many ideas, techniques, and innovations for the classroom beyond those we have included. Both new and experienced teachers have many other resources from which they can draw as they try to improve their students', and their own, classroom experiences. We suggest some such resources in our brief bibliography, but there are also many others.

One problem that all teachers face to which we cannot offer any simple solutions is the problem of time. People outside the academic world often think of college or university teachers as people who live uniquely leisured lives. Those of us who actually work in academia know otherwise. Many of us enjoy more extended vacations than do people in most other professions, it is true. But during the teaching year, we are often compelled to balance an overwhelming number of commitments and responsibilities within a painfully short period of time: teaching classes, advising, grading, serving on committees, commuting, meeting obligations to families and communities, and so forth. Some teachers have very heavy course loads and can find very little time for each of the many preparations demanded of them. Other teachers have part-time jobs, sometimes several of them, and must scramble to find new work even as they are finishing the old. Many college teachers have to balance their teaching obligations against the pressure to do research and to publish, which are often prerequisites to professional survival.

No one will have time to implement all the suggestions in this book-let alone the many other ideas and suggestions available in other sources. Some people will have little time for any of them. We realize, therefore, that our prescriptions for teaching successfully will, in the world most teachers inhabit, need to be balanced against what is possible in pressured and difficult professional lives.

But teaching is a cumulative art. We learn over time, just as our students do. Things you have no time to try one year may be possible in another. A course that begins shakily may improve after two or three tries, and as you slowly incorporate new methods and techniques into your teaching. You should not be discouraged when the realities of your professional life make it hard to enhance your teaching quickly. Do what you can in the time you have, and over several years-if you keep working at it-your teaching will get better.

All of the authors of this book are historians, and our common experience in a single discipline has undoubtedly shaped the way we think about teaching. Teachers of English or psychology or chemistry or any other discipline would undoubtedly produce a rather different book. But almost everything we present here is, we believe, applicable to teaching in other fields-certainly to other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, much of it also to the natural sciences and to the professional fields.

Teaching, particularly for the first time, can be a lonely and intimidating experience. We hope that the material we present here will make the experience less daunting and more rewarding-both for instructors and for their students.

Table of Contents
1 Getting Ready
2 The First Weeks
3 Classroom Discussions
4 The Art and Craft of Lecturing
5 Student Writing and Research
6 Testing and Evaluation
7 Evaluating Your Teaching
8 Teaching as a Graduate Student
9 Teaching Inclusively in a Multicultural Age
10 Using Electronic Resources for Teaching
  Afterword: Why Do We Teach?
  Suggestions for Further Reading
  About the Authors

Copyright notice: Excerpted from pages vii-x of The Chicago Handbook for Teachers: A Practical Guide to the College Classroom by Alan Brinkley, Betty Dessants, Michael Flamm, Cynthia Fleming, Charles Forcey, and Eric Rothschild, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©1999 by the University of Chicago. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the University of Chicago Press.

Alan Brinkley, Betty Dessants, Michael Flamm, Cynthia Fleming, Charles Forcey, and Eric Rothschild
The Chicago Handbook for Teachers: A Practical Guide to the College Classroom
Cloth $25.00 ISBN: 978-0-226-07511-2
Paper $10.00 ISBN: 978-0-226-07512-9
©1999, 196 pages

For information on purchasing the book—from bookstores or here online—please go to the webpage for The Chicago Handbook for Teachers.

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