Purdue University - Department of Computer Science - Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

Classroom Organization

Before class, make sure that the chalkboard has been erased, the projector is ready to be used, etc.

Plan your use of space so that what the students see is well organized. Do not be too quick to erase. Be careful not to block the students’ view of what you have put on the board or the projector.

Announce deadlines, test dates, and the like well ahead of time and at least in two class periods.


In the US culture, poor posture and carriage can suggest that you are not confident or not interested. Standing up straight, on the other hand, could help you to be perceived as confident and knowledgable.

You should be, in one sense, the center of attention and in another sense, invisible. You must engage the students’ attention and focus it on what you are presenting without distracting them with mannerisms.

Remember that you are addressing students, for whom you are a source of information. Your speech and your writing must be easily understandable by everyone in the room. Practice voice projection and large writing if necessary, and ask your students to tell you if they cannot clearly hear what you say or see what you have written.

Never feign knowledge. Admit your errors readily. Doing otherwise may be far more damaging to your credibility.

Show no favoritism.

Engaging Students

If you arrive early, you will have an opportunity to talk with your students. It gives them the message that you want to be there and are interested in them.

Learn your students names. Taking roll can hasten the process. Being on a first-name basis with your students is acceptable but you should feel comfortable with it.

Speak as much as possible directly to the students. In other words, minimize your use of notes.

Be enthusiastic. What you have to tell these students is wonderful and fascinating. It’s important. It’s fun. You enjoy explaining it to them and hope that they enjoy learning it.

Eye contact is important. Let your gaze move over the whole class. Don’t forget those in the back: they may need your attention more than the eager in the front.  Speaking to the blackboard, the walls, or the windows gives the students the impression that you are not interested in them.

Try to make your students active in the classroom. They should not be sitting there merely absorbing your words.

More info on active learning

Conveying Content

Present your outline at the beginning of each class. If possible, establish a connection with the material covered in the preceding meeting.

Use common language. Try to avoid computer jargon, especially at the beginning of the course. Your job is to help your students understand concepts.

Use examples liberally.

In some cases, it is good to give a general overview first; but keep in mind that abstractions will probably mean nothing to students who have no idea of the underlying reality. "Control structures" may not mean very much to someone who has never seen a conditional, loop, or case statement. Proceeding from the known to the unknown, from the particular to the general should be the norm.

More info on learning styles

Questions and Answers

Allow opportunities for questions. You might, for example, begin each class with a question period but don’t let it crowd your presentation.

You should generally expect students to raise their hands and be recognized before speaking in class to avoid confusion.

Repeat questions posed by students so that all the students can hear them. Rephrase the question, if that will make it clearer.

Treat questioners respectfully even if their questions show exasperating ignorance, laziness, or inattention.

You may defer answering questions that waste class time by saying: "I’ll explain that to you after class."

If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it; and if the question is appropriate, say that you will find the answer — and do it. You might ask whether someone in the class knows the answer. If you get the answer that way, thank the student for the help.

When you ask questions, wait a little for the students to think and respond. You can even wait a little after the first hand is raised. Similar pauses for students to think about what you have just said can be very useful. The pauses should not, however, be so long that you lose the students’ attention nor so frequent as to make your presentation tedious.

Balancing needs

You will not always be able to help students at a time that is convenient for them because you yourself have courses to take. When you can't make time for them, let them know that you care about their progress and that you are willing to help later. You could say something like: "I’m really sorry, but I must get this assignment done this afternoon. I’ll be happy to help you at 9 a.m. tomorrow."  If you give them an irritated "no", they will feel offended.


An essential aspect of teamwork is willingly taking up your share of the work and being here when you are needed.

It is important that once the period of service has begun (the Monday before the beginning of classes in semesters), you be here to do what your supervisor needs you to do. At the end of the semester, you must remain until the last day of service (the Tuesday after final examinations in semesters) unless your supervisor releases you early.

Another important aspect of teamwork is to treat other team members with respect.

Never criticize the course supervisor or any member of the course staff in the presence of students. You do not have to agree with your colleagues, but the place to express disagreement is privately with the individual or in staff meetings – not in the presence of students

If students voice complaints about team members, the principles here are to listen and to respect the truth, but not openly criticize any of the team members.

Scenario I:

A student comes to you with a badly graded paper. The mistake is clear, the paper does not appear to have been altered after grading, and you have had several complaints about the grader. You might respond: "Yes, this certainly looks like a mistake in grading. I’ll send it back to the grader" and then have an earnest talk with the grader. You should not respond: "That was a stupid mistake. The grader isn’t doing a very good job."

Scenario II:

Your students are grumbling because the course has an evening exam in conflict with a basketball game with Indiana University. You think that is criminal (especially since you want to go to the game). You might respond: "I understand why you are unhappy. I’d like to go to the game myself. I’ll see what I can do about it." or (if it be true): "The conflict was accidental, but we could not get any other suitable time. I’m sorry about it myself because I too want to attend the game." You should not respond: "I think the supervisor made a real blunder in choosing that date and time."


You need not dress for class as you would for an interview. "Business casual" would be good. More Information

Last Updated: Mar 27, 2017 2:20 PM

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