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.
Big Picture Course Planning
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?”
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?
The selection of materials in your course can support inclusion and welcome diversity. Below are some guidelines and questions when selecting course materials:
- Include course readings, cases, and examples that consider diverse perspectives. These may include materials written or researched by authors from diverse backgrounds or case studies with diverse protagonists.
- If you find that your course materials are homogenous across some metric, ask why.
- Be transparent with students about shortcomings in assigned texts or resources, such as problematic examples, stereotypes, or a lack of diversity across certain metrics. Explain why the example or resource is relevant to their learning.
- 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 additional suggestions.
Your students will complete assignments (problem sets, question responses, homework, etc.) and/or assessments (quizzes, projects, exams, etc.) in your course. The guidelines below can help you ensure your students get the most out of their work.
- Align assignments and assessments with course goals, ensuring the work students complete helps them progress toward or accomplish course goals.
- Provide clear and detailed directions for assignments and assessments, and post explanations and submission instructions on your course website.
- Allow students to practice the skills or explore the knowledge they’ll need to complete assignments and assessments in low stakes environments, such as:
- In-class discussion of key course issues in preparation for a written assignment on the same topics.
- Weekly graded homework assignments with questions similar to what will appear on the final exam.
- Ungraded practice of presentations or skills completed in-class, in review sessions, or as optional assignments.
- Break larger assignments into smaller parts, offering feedback if possible.
- Provide multiple opportunities and ways for students to get help on assignments or when preparing for assessments.
Wondering about how to account for new and developing AI tools in your assignments and assessments? See our resource on Teaching in the AI Era.
Your syllabus can help make course content and policies explicit, helping your students develop an understanding of the overall goals, materials, and norms of your course.
Course policies and 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.
Academic honesty. In your course syllabus, include clear descriptions of how students are expected to complete and prepare for assignments, activities, and tests. This should include clear descriptions of what permitted and unpermitted aid means in your course. You may also include the text of Stanford’s Honor Code in your syllabus as a reminder to students. For more information about discussing AI tool use with your students, see our resource on Teaching in the AI Era.
Inclusion statement. These statements may address classroom interaction, gender-inclusive language, accessibility, and affordability. Some instructors also include a statement inviting and setting guidelines for open discourse.
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 our resource on Writing Content Notices for Sensitive Content.
Interaction and Community
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. You may wish to distribute your syllabus and/or the course policy form and publish your Canvas course website so that students can begin to explore your course before the first day of class.
- 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.
What is norm setting and why do it? Norm setting can take many forms, from setting formal community agreements for classroom participation to informal conversations aimed at normalizing fears or challenges. 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 be adapted to 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 [activity, e.g., discussion, role-play, group project]?
- What makes a productive [activity]?
- What makes an unproductive [activity]?
- What should the ground rules of our [activity] be?
Hear more from your colleagues. Learn about how Lecturer in Management Graham Weaver establishes risk-taking as a norm and how Lecturer in Management Andrea Corney encourages students to take the lead through norm-setting discussions.
In the Handling Discussions Involving Sensitive Topics resource, you can find additional examples from GSB instructors who conduct norm setting, develop discussion guidelines, and normalize classroom challenges in a variety of ways and contexts.
GSB students have reported that a sense of community can help them feel more connected to your course and be ready to take risks in the classroom, increasing their potential for learning. Here are a few examples of ways to foster community with your students:
Connect with students in meetings and informally
- Set up small group or individual “get-to-know-you” meetings at the beginning of the quarter.
- Offer 1:1 office hours.
- Reach out to students who are quiet or may be struggling, or send students a quick thank-you email for standout contributions.
- Chat with students before and/or after class.
Facilitate connections between students
- Conduct icebreaker activities and polls, with simple 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?).
- Assign or support small group work in formal and/or informal formats, e.g., role-plays, discussions, peer feedback on assignments, study groups, reflections.
- Set up asynchronous discussion tools like Slack to provide an opportunity for students to continue conversations, ask and answer questions, or share relevant resources outside of class time.
- Extend interesting topics that emerge in class during extracurricular sessions such as informal conversation groups or more formal student panels.
See our resource on Building Classroom Community for more suggestions.
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:
- Learn students’ names and how to pronounce them correctly. You can use name cards and SeatGEN to help. Access SeatGEN through Canvas and click on the play button icon on a student’s SeatGEN profile picture to hear them pronounce their name. Ask your FA for more information.
- Get to know your students and let them get to know you. Share a few relatable details about yourself at the beginning of the quarter. Have students introduce themselves, and invite students to share their experiences and goals throughout the quarter.
- Create an open invitation for all students to share personal experiences and perspectives without enforcing or putting them on the spot. Reiterating this open invitation throughout the course can help students feel that their insights matter without pushing students who may not be comfortable sharing personal perspectives.
- Bring student expertise into the classroom. Invite students to share their perspectives and experiences throughout the course and explicitly refer back to students’ contributions when possible. If possible, give students opportunities to tailor assignments to their interests and goals. Highlighting students’ contributions and welcoming their interests can help empower students and further their sense of belonging.
- Reach out to students one-on-one if they seem quiet or may be struggling. Individual conversations can help identify interesting ideas or perspectives they have that may be valuable to share in class. Students who are struggling often appreciate an instructor’s outreach and may have ideas about what would help them succeed in your course.
GSB students work hard and have lofty learning goals, but it can still help to put guardrails in place to ensure students are held accountable in class.
Responding to student underpreparedness. If students often seem underprepared for class, consider beginning by asking yourself the following questions:
- Do students know exactly how and what to prepare for each class?
- Are students feeling overwhelmed? Is the course schedule modulated so that students aren’t working on too many different assignments at once?
If you are unsure, ask students periodically how they feel their assignments are going. It may help to ask students to reflect on what they could do differently to improve their own learning and what concrete ideas they have for how you could help them succeed.
Strategies for increasing engagement and accountability. Low-stakes accountability strategies help students stay on top of their work throughout the quarter, encourage regular participation, and help instructors check for understanding. Consider the following strategies:
- Post discussion questions in advance on Canvas and ask for students’ participation on those questions in class, either by cold calling or having students discuss in small groups.
- Use polls or low-stakes quizzes at the beginning of class to check for understanding of key concepts from the readings or other pre-class assignments.
- Include discussion questions that ask students to draw on personal experiences, perspectives, or expertise, especially in required courses.
Student accountability for class norms. Class norms and policies can be difficult for students to track, since each of their courses may set different expectations. Here are some suggestions for how to respond when students disregard norms or policies such as discussion norms, late arrival policies, or assignment submission policies:
- Repeat norms and expectations often, especially during the first few weeks of the quarter.
- If students forget, remind them gently and matter-of-factly.
- If one or a few students appear to consistently forget or ignore norms, ask to meet with them privately to remind them of the expectations, explain why the norm/expectation exists, and brainstorm ideas about how you can help them succeed.
Facilitation and Instruction
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.
- Use a live polling tool to check for understanding or ask questions to help center the focus.
- Consider pre-recording lectures (or parts of lectures) that can be watched outside of the class session so that your time in-person can be interactive.
Establish a mechanism for students to engage actively during the class session and clearly communicate how you will do so at the start of the quarter. For example, you may choose to take volunteer comments or questions, cold call on students, or select students to expand on questions or comments they have submitted.
If you choose to incorporate cold calling in your course, consider giving students a chance to warm up. This can help reduce student anxiety over being called on and help students focus more deeply on other parts of the class session. For example:
- Start the conversation in smaller groups or pairs first so that students can test out ideas with their peers before sharing with the whole class.
- Distribute a list of 3–4 essential discussion questions in advance.
- Assign certain individuals ahead of time to kick off the discussion. You may assign these individuals randomly or according to their expertise or interest in the subject matter.
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:
- 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.
- Recast or clarify your question if responses veer off topic.
- 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.
Hear more from your colleague. Learn about how Lecturer in Management David Dodson broadens and deepens engagement when leading discussions.
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 and frequently call on students whose names are easier for us to pronounce, who sit in a particular part of the room, who consistently raise their hand first, or are of a certain gender or race. 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 more 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 the questions and/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.
Active learning moments. What your students are doing during a class session and how they are processing new information is just as important as what content you share. The more actively they engage in class sessions, especially lectures, the deeper their understanding of the material can be. Here are some ways to incorporate active learning moments into your class:
- Give students guidelines on what to listen or watch for during content delivery (lectures, videos, etc.).
- Incorporate open- or close-ended polls to check for understanding, solicit a variety of perspectives at once, or have students make predictions.
- After or during lectures, have students discuss questions or complete a practice problem in small groups.
- Ask students to articulate main points in their own words during or after a lecture, by calling on students or having students write them down.
- Have students reflect on how content may apply to their own experiences or list questions about how content and personal interests may intersect.
Experiential learning activities. These activities are a type of deep active learning that empower students to explore content on their own through challenging and real-world problems or discussions. These activities may follow a lecture, giving students the opportunity to apply new knowledge, or may be in place of a lecture, where students learn new material within its real-world context.
Here are some types of experiential learning common in GSB classrooms:
- Role-play activities and other real-world simulations
- Case study-based learning
- Community-based or client projects
- Game-based learning
- Projects requiring students to apply learning to new situations
- Problem-based learning (students work in groups to solve an open-ended problem)
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 of the course, including identities, backgrounds, and (if applicable) industries and international perspectives represented.
- 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 the Zoom Instructions Handout for Remote Guest Speakers with Zoom login instructions, troubleshooting information, and an overview of features commonly used at GSB. It may be helpful to schedule a brief meeting to practice using and configuring the technical setup.
- Build in ways for students to connect with guest speakers after the session. You could ask 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.
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. Our resource on Handling Discussions on Sensitive Topics includes our suggestions for handling both unexpected and planned class discussions that involve sensitive topics.
If you have a course assistant, letting them manage the technical and logistical functions of your course can help you focus on teaching.
- They can help generate warm call lists, keep small group discussions running smoothly, take attendance, and track student participation. Make sure your course assistant has been given the appropriate instructions to do this.
- We recommend clarifying your expectations and instructions for class time with your course assistant and/or co-instructor ahead of time.
Collecting student feedback at different stages of your course can help in different ways. During end-quarter course evaluations, students are able to share their experiences in your course as a whole, but may reflect the later weeks of the quarter more strongly. Mid-quarter feedback is a good time to get feedback about the first part of your course, and gives you an opportunity to clear up student confusion or offer help while the course is still in session. Some instructors prefer weekly feedback instead and ask students to regularly submit short surveys with feedback about recent activities, cases, and guest speakers.
Here are some tips to consider when collecting feedback from students:
- Before and/or after you solicit feedback, let students know how you’ll use their feedback and what their comments will contribute towards. Perhaps you’ll use their feedback to make changes next quarter, offer immediate help to those who need it, or as ideas to consider for a future course redesign.
- Solicit actionable feedback by asking students to provide concrete suggestions and examples.
- Set aside 5–15 minutes of class time for students to fill out feedback or evaluation forms.
Read more about collecting mid-quarter feedback and hear from your colleagues about their approaches to collecting feedback.
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.
Need to teach online? See our guide to Teaching in the Virtual Classroom.
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!
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.
These videos share their tips for teaching:
- Faculty Tips: Teaching with Presence and Connection
- Faculty Showcase on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Event Highlights
The Teaching and Learning Hub would love to hear about your teaching tips or best practice. Submit your tip using this short form.
Set up your technical configuration well in advance of the first class starting and practice with the technology beforehand. Digital Solutions (DS) offers 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.
- Instructor resources: