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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
OER Open Educational Resources

Criminal Justice Academy (CJA) Instructor Toolkit: Art of Teaching

Whether you’re a new faculty member or a seasoned instructor, we hope you’ll find new ideas and practical resources for teaching criminal justice courses

The Art of Teaching

The Art of Teaching addresses topics such as 1) The Presentation of Self, 2) Types of Instructors, 3) Variables of Teaching, and 5) Classroom instruction (Evaluation, Lecture, Discussion and Videos).

The Variables of Teaching

No matter which professorial character best describes you, think of teaching as a collection of certain independent variables. Some of these variables have a good and bad side of the spectrum. For instance, it is better to be lively than boring. It is also better to be knowledgeable about your subject matter than ignorant.

But other variables are more subjective. There is not a clear right and wrong way to teach. Are hard graders “better” than easy graders? It depends. The same is true of a classroom geared toward learning facts compared with one geared toward creative thinking. While we’d all like to inspire our students to love the course material and continue a lifetime of learning, sometimes facts must be known.

Part of the problem with teaching is that it’s hard to know if you’re doing a good job. Except for griping about the length of readings, students will rarely offer you even the most gentle and constructive criticism (mostly for fear of grading retribution). But if you understand your own style and what you as a professional wish to accomplish, you can better evaluate your own performance. On one hand, if you think facts are just going to be forgotten and class is best unstructured and free-flowing, then you ought to be worried if the students are unresponsive, texting in class, or exhibiting a collective bladder-control problem. If, on the other hand, you believe in drilling facts and figures, you should be worried when half the class fails a quiz.

The Effective Professor

It’s easy to find people with ideas about writing a syllabus, using technology, special needs students, work assignments, grading rubrics, and classroom management. But little of this will tell you what to actually do in the classroom. Mind you, this page won’t either. Nobody can tell you exactly what to do, because there is an art to teaching that involves improvisation. But there is some advice I can offer. Take it with a grain of salt, but hopefully you’ll find at least some of this useful.

There is a study by Ambady and Rosenthal (1993) in which students were shown 10-second clips of professors. The students were then asked to evaluate the effectiveness of the professors. The ratings given by these students were nearly identical to those given by students who had been taught by the same professor for an entire semester. The same results happened when the videos were silent and cut down to just 2 seconds!

I know that no effective professors sit at a desk reading from an open textbook in front of them. No matter the pedagogical theories and classroom prep, students value professors who appear lively. Students pick up on qualities like enthusiasm, likability, warmth, confidence, competence, and a supportive demeanor.