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The Teaching Playbook includes guidelines and tips to help you develop your strategy for teaching at the GSB. This playbook is based on foundational principles of learning design, coupled with teaching examples and experiences from your GSB colleagues. It was designed to help you get the most out of planning and delivering your course content to your students. 

Whether you’re teaching a course for the first time or are a seasoned instructor looking to up your game with new or promising practices, these resources are available for you to consult as you need them.

We recognize there is no single best way to teach and that making decisions about your methodology is connected to the context and subject matter that you’ll be teaching. We hope you will use this section as a resource to help you answer the question for yourself — “How might I teach effectively in my context or subject matter area?”

Identify your main goals

Focus on the essential knowledge, skills, and attitudes you want your students to learn, and think about what content and activities your students need to achieve those goals. You can always augment with additional or optional content and materials later, but building your course from the core learning goals will help you keep your course focused and create a better experience for you and your students.

  • What are the essential knowledge, skills, and attitudes you want your students to learn from your course?
  • What is the learning arc through your course? What skills and knowledge do they need to master before they progress to the next activity or unit in your course?
  • What content and activities support the learning?
  • How will you measure whether students have successfully met the learning goals?
Establish norms

Explicit norm-setting, policies, and requirements for student participation and course completion can help create a smoother experience for you and your students.

What is norm setting and why do it? Norm setting can take many forms, from setting community agreements for classroom participation to conversations aimed at normalizing fears or challenges. These sessions may be informal discussions or formal processes of proposing and collectively agreeing on a participation contract. Norm setting supports students in developing ownership over creating a supportive and productive course environment and helps students feel more comfortable taking risks in front of or with their classmates.

How do you set norms? Norm-setting sessions can take many forms, depending on the needs of the students and the challenges of the course. In a norm-setting session aimed at setting ground rules, you may ask students to consider the following questions in small groups, before discussing as a class:

  • What is the purpose of discussion (or another course activity)?
  • What makes a productive discussion?
  • What makes an unproductive discussion?
  • What should the ground rules of our discussions be?

In the Handling Discussions Involving Sensitive Topics resource, you can find examples from GSB instructors who conduct norm setting, develop discussion guardrails, and normalize classroom challenges in a variety of ways and contexts.

Communicate course expectations. Use the course policy form to help standardize how learning expectations are communicated to students. You may wish to include things such as your policies on laptops or devices in the classroom, participation, and attendance. Your faculty assistant can work with you to complete the template and add it to your Canvas homepage.

Plan materials that incorporate diverse content and perspectives

The selection of materials in your course can support inclusion and welcome diversity. Below are some guidelines and questions when selecting course materials:

  • Are multiple identities and communities represented? 
  • If you find that your course materials are homogenous across some metric, ask why. 
  • Try to find ways to express how practitioners and perspectives from a wide range of backgrounds have a place in your discipline. For example, you might draw on underrepresented scholars and showcase their successes. When this is not possible, be forthright about this reality and acknowledge how this limitation can constrain what counts as knowledge in your discipline.

See Incorporating Diversity into Course Content for more suggestions on incorporating diverse content into your course.

Write content notices

A content notice is a cautionary statement, spoken or printed, that alerts students to the sensitive nature of the material about to be seen, read, or discussed in class.

Individuals do not have control over what triggers them, but many have personal strategies they use to cope with triggers when they must be encountered. These strategies generally work best when the trigger is expected and can be prepared for. Content notices give people the forewarning necessary for them to make use of the strategies that will decrease the harmfulness of encountering triggering material. Content notices are not intended to permit students to skip class or censor your material. See More.

Interaction and Community

Communicate with students before class begins

MBA students may have built familiarity with how things work at the GSB, but they are also juggling different norms for each of their classes. Early and frequent communication from you to your students can ease anxiety, build trust, and help you avoid an influx of repeated individual questions. You might:

  • Share your expectations, class norms, and if you will use any technologies. The course policy form standardizes how expectations and norms are shared with your students. You may wish to include things such as your policies on laptops or devices in the classroom, participation, and attendance. Your faculty assistant can work with you to complete the template and add it to your Canvas homepage.
  • Consider meeting with students (either individually or in small groups) before the first class to get to know them, understand their goals, and motivate them for the upcoming quarter.
Build a class community

Several GSB faculty have been employing various methods to build a class community beyond the in-person 1:1 office hour model. Here are a few examples of ways to foster community with your students:

  • Group office hours, pre-quarter meetings, and coffee chats. Several faculty have explored ways to build personal relationships with students outside of class time either online or in person, such as coffee chats, informal lunches, pre-quarter “get to know you” meetings, etc.
  • Individual office hours. Several faculty have found that taking some time to meet with students individually in short meetings at the beginning or throughout the quarter have served to both enhance course content and increase student motivation. In these meetings, which can be online or in-person, you might ask students to share their goals and aspirations or learn about their backgrounds. Many faculty have in turn integrated student’s interests and goals into the course content. You can hold regularly scheduled office hours using a drop-in format or sign-up sheets. 
  • Sharing spaces. Several faculty have created a meeting time and space for students to share more holistically what they are experiencing around larger social issues. These may be in an informal online or in-person group setting. 
  • Icebreakers, polls, and online discussion tools. Prompting the students with simple ice-breaker questions (e.g., Are you an early bird or night owl?) or more in-depth open-ended questions (e.g., What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?) during or between class sessions can be a valuable tool to build classroom community. Using polling tools like Poll Everywhere allow you to capture and immediately share icebreaker responses with your students. Asynchronous discussion tools like Slack can be a great way to provide an opportunity for students to continue conversations or share relevant resources outside of class time.
  • See the Community-building Activities article for suggestions on building community through student-to-faculty and student-to-student interactions.
Foster a sense of inclusivity and belonging

Acknowledging students as individuals can increase their motivation and contribute to their learning success. There are a few simple things you can do to help students feel that they are having a more equitable and inclusive learning experience. Here are a few suggestions to consider:

  • Ask students how to pronounce their names. If you ask your students to record their names in Axess (via NameCoach), the recordings will be available in the Canvas Roster Photos tool.
  • Create an open invitation for all students to volunteer to share personal perspectives without enforcing or putting them on the spot. Opening discussions to a variety of perspectives (whether personal or cultural) can not only broaden the learning experience but help individuals feel that their insights matter and are welcome.

Facilitation and Instruction

Delivering content and lecturing

You may have a large amount of material to get through, so it’s important to remember your students have that same amount to process and internalize. With a little planning ahead, you can organize how you’ll deliver your content in your class in a way that maximizes student attention. Here are some suggestions for communicating a clear structure and keeping students engaged during your session:

  • Incorporate verbal “signposts” throughout that tell students where you are, what you’ve done so far, and where you’re going in the session. You can even incorporate specific slides with this information throughout your presentation.
  • Check in with your students at regular intervals or as you are switching or building on topics to make sure that they follow the material and remain engaged.
  • Break down lectures into digestible segments (10-20 minutes) interspersed with interactive opportunities. Think about your sessions in terms of segments of presentation, participation, reflection, small group work, and debrief. 
  • Consider implementing a live chat tool or polling to ask questions to help center the focus.
  • Consider pre-recording lectures (or parts of lectures) that can be watched offline so that your time in-person can be interactive. Contact us if you’d like to learn more about available options and support for pre-recorded lectures.
Calling on students

Establish a mechanism for students to engage actively during the lecture. A shared GoogleDoc or implementing a chat tool is another simple way to provide a space for students to note down questions during class.

Facilitating discussions

Balancing lecture with interactive discussions can help keep students engaged in the topics and allow you to assess their grasp of key concepts. Here are tips to consider when facilitating discussions:

  • Promote student readiness. 
    • Be sure to state clean, well-defined transitions between discussion topics.
    • Consider starting the conversation in smaller groups or pairs first so that students can test out ideas with their peers before sharing with the whole class.
    • Mix in “warm calls” by sending a list of certain study questions in advance and assigning certain individuals ahead to kick off the discussion. 
    • Be explicit in that you will randomly ask students to discuss questions during class if you are planning to mix in “cold calls.”
  • Foster interactive discussions.
    • Strive to cast open-ended questions that elicit an analysis, reactions, or insights from the class instead of heavily relying on questions that fish for specific answers.
    • Invite students to respond to one another’s ideas and not just respond directly to you.
    • Integrate brief pauses to give students time to reflect on your summaries or others’ comments before calling on the next person.
    • When disagreements arise, engage students to further illustrate their position.
Hosting guest speakers

Inviting guest speakers can be an ideal opportunity to connect course content to real world examples and applications. Here are some suggestions for making guest speaker sessions run smoothly:

  • Consider how your choice of guest speaker contributes to the diversity of identities, backgrounds, and (if applicable) industries and international perspectives of the course.
  • Discuss your course and session goals in advance with the guest speaker.
  • Think about how you’ll solicit questions from students and discuss these ideas or approaches with the guest speaker. For example, you may have students send questions in advance and then call on the students during the session to ask the question live.
  • If a guest speaker is joining remotely, share this handout with Zoom login instructions, troubleshooting information, and overview of features commonly used at GSB. It may also be helpful to schedule a brief meeting to practice logging onto Zoom, configure audio and video, and get acquainted with the platform.
  • Build in ways for students to connect with guest speakers after the session. You could work with your guest speaker to stay for 10-15 minutes after the end of class or organize a drop-in lunch on the day of the speaker's visit.
  • Invite student feedback on guests’ content after each session to discover what’s working and what may still be missing from the student experience. Some available tools for collecting feedback with options for collecting submissions anonymously are Poll Everywhere, Google Forms, Qualtrics, and Canvas surveys.

For suggestions about bringing in guest speakers in support of incorporating diversity into your course, see Incorporating Diversity into Course Content.

Ensuring equitable participation

You may find that some students might be frequent participants while others may take their time to contribute to discussion. Additionally, it can be easy to unintentionally call on students of a certain gender or race, students whose names are easier for us to pronounce, or students who sit in a particular part of the room. There are a few strategies you can employ to create systems and routines that support a class climate for engaged and inclusive discussions and ensure that many voices are represented in the discussion.

  • Track participation opportunities on a chart to identify and correct distribution patterns. (It’s useful to have a course assistant help you with this.)
  • Generate randomized calling lists and use them to call on students. (You can “warm call” by providing either the questions or the list of students who will be called on in advance).
  • Use a participation quota system where students can allot their participation as they choose. 
  • Use polling tools to engage the whole classroom at once then invite students to share how and why they responded the way they did.
  • Be transparent about fostering equitable and diverse engagement.

Regardless of the method(s) chosen, GSB students have appreciated hearing from faculty in regards to how participation is tracked and course norms on fostering inclusivity and equity across the discussion landscape.

Anticipating and responding to sensitive topics

A core value at the Stanford GSB is to encourage students to engage in critical inquiry and embody leadership skills in areas where they can engage in discourse and respond thoughtfully rather than simply react to sensitive issues. Increasingly, a sensitive topic may reach your classroom whether you invite it or not. Below are some key foundational points about sensitive topics:

  • Sensitive topics may relate to race and ethnicity, gender, age, nationality, sexuality, physical appearance, disability, socioeconomic status, politics, religion, genetic testing, evolution, immigration, grief, loss, trauma, and many more.
  • You may want to address the topic in class, your students may want to discuss it, or the subject may come up spontaneously because of your course content or implications. This resource includes our suggestions for handling both unexpected and planned class discussions that involve sensitive topics.

Technology for Teaching and Learning

The landscape of learning technologies has grown vastly, which can be both exciting and daunting. Stanford has adopted a wide range of platforms and tools for engaging students, creating content, and delivering instructional media. Teaching and Learning Hub can offer recommendations to help you select and implement technologies to achieve your teaching goals.

Learn more about supported learning technologies and the technology adoption process on our Tools and Technology page.

Contingency planning for technology

An added factor to teaching with technology whether in person, online, or in hybrid is the layer of technology and applications. Just like teaching in person, there can be unexpected interruptions to course delivery. Planning ahead and communicating clearly with students can be a way you might minimize those disruptions. Here are some examples of other norms you may want to communicate:

  • If you’re teaching online or expect students to complete work with technology or tools outside of your regularly scheduled class time, let them know where to regularly check back for updated information in the event of a disruption such as an internet outage, glitch, or interrupted online session (e.g., Zoom bombing). Plan and explain your contingency plan before you need it. If your online meeting is disrupted, will you have another backup meeting ready? Will you post the updates immediately in an online discussion thread in Canvas or elsewhere?
  • Set a regular routine for updating applications and ask your students to do the same (e.g., update your Zoom application every Monday morning.)

Key Resources

TLHub events and resources

The Teaching and Learning Hub is continually adding events, resources, and other opportunities for you to implement new tools or activities, or further develop your teaching practice. We’re also available for 1-1 consultations to address your specific needs. We’re here to help!

Reflections from the community

Your faculty colleagues are a key resource. Take advantage of conversations with your colleagues to share and learn from each other's teaching experiences and brainstorm ways you might address teaching challenges.

Tips and resources from the GSB community on teaching. Your colleagues are an invaluable resource. These videos share their tips for teaching:

The Teaching and Learning Hub would love to hear about your teaching tips or best practice. Submit your tip using this short form.

Tips for leveraging your course assistant if you have one

If you have a course assistant, letting them manage the technical and logistical functions of your online or hybrid class can help you focus on teaching. 

  • They can help queue students who raise their hands, form and manage small group discussions, take attendance, and record student participation. Make sure your teaching assistant has been given the appropriate instructions to do this. 
  • We recommend clarifying your expectations and instructions for class time with your teaching assistant and/or co-instructor ahead of time.
Teaching space support

Set up your technical configuration well in advance of the first class starting and practice with the technology beforehand. Digital Solutions (DS) is offering in-classroom tech consultations. You can also request consultations at gsbfirst.stanford.edu, and the message will go straight to the GSB’s Digital Solutions team.

Need Something Else?

The Teaching and Learning Hub may be able to help or direct you to the right support. Contact us here.