1st Days: Moving into Our Elements

27 Aug Chemistry Cat

First day

Students often face uncertainty on that first class: How can I get a good grade? and What are the teacher’s expectations? are just a two of the common questions that they frequently raise – or at least think.

Instructors likewise face uncertainty: What should be done on that first day? Is it a day about learning?  policy? getting acquainted?  Some research encourages teachers to review the syllabus, explain expectations and dismiss students early; other research recommends using the entire class period, especially if it is used for introductions for engaging students with course content.  Our experience calls for a weaving of all three strands.

The article by Anderson et al reviews several research studies that examine what instructors should do on the first day of class and then give examples from their field (recreation and leisure studies) about how that research could be applied.  Meyers and Smith also review the research about first day best practices and then discuss their own studies, which attempt to clarify what one should do.

The articles by Brouillette/Turner and Eves/Redd take a more discipline specific approach to the first day of class.  Brouillette/Turner discuss an activity that allows students to experience the “sociological imagination” in a memorable manner while Eves/Redd describe how they use the game of Jeopardy to refresh students’ memories about the chemistry that they have learned from previous courses.

We’ve added three handouts from our own recent courses for first-time teachers, and noted their titles at the close of this bibliographic listing.  We’ve collected these resources into a single Dropbox Folder:  http://z.umn.edu/dayone


Denise M Anderson, Francis A. McGuire and Lynne Cory.  “The First Day: It Only Happens Once.” Teaching in Higher Education 16.3 (June 2011): 293-303.

John R. Brouillette and Ronny E. Turner.  “Creating the Sociological Imagination on the First Day of Class: The Social Construction of Deviance.”  Teaching Sociology 20.4 (October 1992): 276-279.

Daniel Eves and J. Ty Redd.  “General Chemistry II: Setting the Stage on the First Day with Jeopardy.”  Journal of College Science Teaching 43.6 (2014): 41-45.

Sal Meyers and Brian Smith . “The First Day of Class: How Should Instructors Use Class Time?” To Improve the Academy 29 (210):147-159.



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