Inside Iowa State

Inside Archives

Submit news

Send news for Inside to, or call (515) 294-7065. See publication dates, deadlines.

About Inside

Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

February 25, 2005

Students discuss what makes the best teachers

by Samantha Beres

Students identified characteristics of good learning experiences in "My Best Teachers," a panel discussion held last week by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). The five-student panel spoke for about an hour to more than 30 faculty, instructional support staff and teaching assistants.

Tips from panelists Andy Brown, Linda Boldfriend, Adam Stephan, Luke Gran and Chris Deal overlapped in a few areas: teachers' attitudes, how class material is used and class discussions.

Brown said a professor who teaches with enthusiasm makes him want to go to class. "The teacher is so passionate about it that you can't help but get excited about it, too."

Gran agreed. "I'm begging for the teacher to say, 'Isn't this awesome?' It's really important to us because we're hearing this material for the first time."

Panelists agreed the interest level of a class also depends on how teaching tools are used, including textbooks, PowerPoint and outside information. Brown said he enjoys a class more when the textbook is used to complement the subject matter, rather than the class repeating what has been read for homework.

PowerPoint drew mixed reviews. "PowerPoint has ruined the teaching profession," Stephan said. "The absolute rule should be: do not use the textbook-supplied PowerPoint."

In an open question-and-answer session after the panel's presentation, students did say that PowerPoint could be OK as long as there is a balance, for instance, presenting an outline vs. reading all the class material off slides.

Students agreed that outside information from journals and articles make class more interesting and that good teachers stay up-to-date on their subject matter.

"I think it's excellent when instructors check into the area that they're teaching and know current information," Boldfriend said.

Class participation and discussion make for an excellent learning experience.

"When students are invited to talk, I think that helps us to understand the subject a little more deeply," Boldfriend said.

"And the discussion should be analyzing and applying things, not just repeating back what you've read," said Stephan, who added that debates make a class enjoyable as well.

Questions from the audience

One question was: Which technologies enhance teaching? The panel replied that the clicker system, when working properly, helps students sitting in a huge lecture stay involved. (The clicker system allows students to respond immediately to questions by pressing a button and allows the teacher to gauge whether material being presented is understood.)

Another question: How can professors encourage students to take part in class discussion? The panel suggested that teachers have an open, inviting attitude and that discussion be part of the class on a regular basis, so students know they need to prepare for it.

Susan Yager, CELT associate director, organized the panel discussion and also received student input via e-mails. Students emphasized the significance of being known by their names. They also stated that professors should communicate clearly, keep their office hours, be punctual and share some of their own interests or research.

CELT holds workshops targeted at faculty, instructional support staff, and teaching assistants. For more information, visit its Web site at:

Tips for making a class enjoyable

  • Teach with passion, energy and interest.
  • Use textbooks to complement class material.
  • Allow lots of students to talk.
  • Encourage class discussion and student-to-student discussion.
  • Encourage originality, not just repeating what is learned in class.
  • Stay up-to-date with current material in the area.
  • Offer extra credit to allow people to express themselves differently.
  • Be prepared.
  • Use examples; have them ready.
  • Don't use textbook-supplied PowerPoint presentations.
  • Ask challenging questions.
  • Offer quick rewards (e.g., toss candy bars out to participants with correct answers in huge lectures).
  • Elicit after-hours discussion (light the fire in class and encourage it to continue outside of class).


"I'm begging for the teacher to say, 'Isn't this awesome?' It's really important to us because we're hearing this material for the first time."

Luke Gran, ISU student