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As a new TA or a young professor, the task of establishing your credibility as an instructor can be an intimidating one.  In Teaching What You Don’t Know, Therese Huston provides some advice on how to establish this credibility early in the semester.  Research suggests that the following common pitfalls can actually cause an instructor to lose credibility: showing up late to class, being unable to explain difficult concepts, failing to ask students if they understand the instructor’s explanations, displaying a lack of familiarity with the text, not making attempts to answer students’ questions, failing to follow course policies outlined in the syllabus (particularly with regard to grading), and not reminding students of upcoming deadlines and due dates.

The good news is there are many things instructors can do to establish their credibility!

  • When designing your course, begin with material within your wheelhouse.  If you can start the semester with material you’re more comfortable teaching (because it is your area of expertise), you’ll be more likely to speak with authority and you’ll gain confidence early.
  • Show up to class early to set up and spend time connecting with students and finding out if they have any questions.
  •  Stopping periodically throughout each class period to gauge student understanding and to answer questions.
  • Provide clear reminders before assignments are due to help keep students on-track.

Keep all these elements in mind as you begin teaching and you’ll be sure to establish your credibility as an instructor and create the best possible classroom environment for yourself and your students.

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