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Tip of the Week
Setting the Tone
In her wonderfully insightful book, The Spark of Learning: Energizing the Classroom with the Science of Emotion , Sarah Rose Cavanagh shows how research from the field of affective science can be applied to teaching in higher education. Along the way, she shares a series of tips on keeping students engaged throughout the semester by setting the right tone from the beginning.

Getting students to be enthusiastic and motivated for class begins with the teacher. Cavanagh points out how enthusiasm and motivation are positively contagious. Most of us can probably recall teachers whose passionate emotion for their subject is so great it sweeps over their students and "infects" them with the desire to learn more themselves. While some of this enthusiasm may be inherent, there are ways to cultivate it and enhance this affective crossover from teacher to student. Cavanagh suggests these practices:
  • Practice good self-care: You cannot do good for others if you are not good to yourself. Get plenty of good rest and nutrition, exercise, and schedule regular downtime to decompress.
  • Conduct your classes mindfully: Explore mindful practices that help you keep focused on the present moment.
  • Include accessible, relevant humor: No need to plan out humor that is not natural, but take laughs when you can get them.
  • Self-disclose (appropriately) and tell stories: Talk about your personal connections to class topics. Everybody likes storytime.
  • Be credible, confident, and competent: Tell it like it is, stick to your rules, know your stuff.
  • Be optimistic, portray immediacy: Through eye contact, leaning forward, smiling, a relaxed posture, use of gestures, a variety of vocal tones, and movement around the classroom.
Dr. Cavanagh in action
You might recognize Sarah Rose Cavanagh from the second annual Conference for High Impact Instructional Practices (CHIIPs) at ETSU earlier this month where she lead a workshop and gave the keynote address. Check out her books and advice guides in the Chronicle for more!
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