Herbert A. Simon Award for Teaching Excellence
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh PA 15213-3891
(412)268-8525 . (412)268-5576 (fax)

Ten Steps to Successful Teaching

Luis von Ahn

I haven't been teaching for very long, but driven by my laziness desire to be more efficient, I have found ten steps guaranteed to make teaching easier and more enjoyable:

1. Pick great TAs. Over the years, I've had the most amazing set of TAs, and this teaching award is more than 50% due to them. If you've TA'd for me,I would like to give each of you part of the cash prize associated with this award. Too bad there isn't one.

2. When you don't know the answer to a question say it's outside the scope of the course.

3. Teaching evaluations are highly correlated with the grade the students think they will get at the time of filling out the surveys. Make your course easy, then crush them on the final.

4. Ask the students a lot of questions during lecture – it kills time.

5. If you can't learn their names, call them all "dude."

6. At least once a semester show up to lecture unprepared and claim your dog ate your notes.

7. Never, under any circumstances, disclose the exact grade cutoffs at the end of the semester. Somebody has to get the highest B, and they won't be happy. "You're lucky you got a B, dude."

8. Finish lecture 10 minutes early every time – they love this (and they'll never know you love it even more).

9. Easiest way to get rid of whiners without yielding: "I'll take that into account when calculating your final grade, dude."

10. Don't take yourself too seriously.


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