Making an ACUE Module: Leading the First Day of Class

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Julie Candio Sekel

It’s the first day of class in English 105 and Julie Candio Sekel, an adjunct professor, has the chance to make a lasting impression.

The 30 students seated in front of her come with a diverse set of backgrounds, experiences, and levels of engagement. A few students nod eagerly in the front row. One boy is on his laptop editing an image in Photoshop, while another student is already dozing off in the back row.

“To start, please raise your hand if you did some writing this morning before class,” begins Candio Sekel, who teaches at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

The question seems to tank when no students raise their hands.

Unphased, Candio Sekel presses on: “Are you sure? Did you email or text someone? Did you write an Instagram caption? Who Tweeted? Who posted to Facebook?”

With each prompt, more hands go up until most students are paying attention. When she asks about writing pick-up lines on an online dating app, the class erupts into laughter and light chatter.

Candio Sekel calls them back together to hammer home her point: Writing is a relevant and necessary skill.

“Let’s face it, writing is an integral part of our lives, and this course will help you to write better, communicate better, and reap the benefits of that improved communication both personally and professionally,” she says.

The exchange lasts less than a minute, but it showcases the immediate impact that an effective introduction on the first day of class can have. It was one of many teaching techniques captured on film this week as part of ACUE’s video-intensive Course in Effective Teaching Practices.

Candio Sekel is a real professor and even some of her students at Ramapo College were part of the filming. But the scenes were carefully staged and elaborately produced to enhance the learning experience for ACUE’s course-takers.

In these simulated classroom observations, instructors like Candio Sekel demonstrate techniques with different levels of proficiency, some of which are effective and others that need improvement. Faculty members who take the course analyze the observation and discuss it with colleagues in forums.

Despite her strong opening, Candio Sekel printed out too few syllabi, and some students weren’t able to participate in an introductory activity. Later, Candio Sekel couldn’t get the projector to work and therefore couldn’t show the syllabus on the projector screen, making it more challenging to discuss it as a class.

Interested in learning more about how you can bring ACUE’s Course in Effective Teaching Practices to your campus? Register as an ACUE Community member.

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