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What Should Happen on the First Day of the Course

You should have the following goals for the first session of any course:

  • The students have an idea of the content and the structure of the course. The central idea is clear. It’s important to get the students intrigued about the subject and motivated for the course. Try to convey why you are so excited about the subject yourself or share your own research or learning process. Some of our suggestions for engaging your students are also useful for the first session.
  • You have developed a basic sense of the students’ interests, needs, and knowledge levels and can take these factors into account for your further planning.
  • The performance requirements and formal conditions for participation such as deadlines, etc., are established and transparent. It is advisable to provide these types of documents in writing.
  • The students know what materials they need and how to obtain them.
  • The students know how to reach you as the lecturer if they have questions or issues. Communicate that students should contact you if they have problems or special needs that you as the lecturer should keep in mind, such as alternative assignments for unavoidable absences, accessibility needs, the desire to be addressed in a certain way, etc.
  • We also recommend that you point out advisory services at Freie Universität Berlin that the students can also contact about issues such as reconciling their studies with other aspects of their lives, compensating for disadvantages, financing their studies, or responding to discrimination. Bringing these things up not only familiarizes them with the various institutions and offices, it also signals that you are aware of their varying needs and life circumstances. Many students never seek advice or do so only belatedly because they are afraid of stigma. If you are familiar with your university’s institutions and mention them periodically, you can help break this taboo.
Do not generate your student list using the names from campus management. Instead, pass around a blank list or table. Not all students want to be addressed using the name they are (still) officially registered under. For example, there might be transgender students in your class, and by using or publicizing their “old” name by passing around a list or taking attendance from the official list of names, you might “out” these students, which can create an easily avoidable burden and expose them to awkward or discriminatory questions.

Version April 2017. Unless otherwise stated, this content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence.