CELT Faculty Spotlight: Shenglan Zhang

Dr. Shenglan Zhang, Associate Professor, Department of World Languages and Cultures, has spent 10 years at Iowa State. Shenglan’s advice for teaching:

I mostly teach language courses that focus on skills, which require a set of strategies that do not necessarily apply to teach content courses. I think, however, the following four suggestions are essential for any classroom teaching. 

  1. Create a pleasant and relaxing class atmosphere. A very stern face and inflexible attitude would likely make the students less attentive to the instructor and the subject matter. Only when the students are relaxed and enjoying the learning process can they truly learn. Students are usually susceptible to the teachers’ moods and attitudes and can be easily affected by that. A teacher can be flexible and friendly, while at the same time be rigorous and precise. 
  2. Meet the students where they are. This step requires knowing what the students already know for curriculum design and classroom teaching. For curriculum design, design activities that fill in missing knowledge gaps before introducing new concepts. To take advantage of synchronous online or Face-to-Face meetings with more teacher-student interaction, focus on the most challenging concepts or skills the students need to learn. To assess students’ prior knowledge, a new teacher might want to give students a short survey at the beginning of the semester or even the week before the semester starts to know whether they have mastered the foundational knowledge or skills needed for further learning.
  3. Teach students to self-regulate their learning. A large part of learning does not happen in the classroom but outside of it. Students’ self-regulated learning skills are crucial. A few things might help them include reminding them to avoid distractions when learning, setting up achievable goals, and assigning a specific chunk of time for each task. Also, please provide a few minutes in class occasionally for students to share their learning strategies with their peers. 
  4. Gain feedback from students. We usually get students’ feedback through course evaluation, which helps us revise and improve our teaching for the next semester. However, I suggest gathering feedback from students after a few weeks into the semester and before the midterm. This feedback helps instructors make adjustments for the second half of the semester. One can use the Delta/Plus form for this purpose,  as requested by LAS Dean Slagell in her email (9/11/2020). Locate this information on CELT’s Using a PLUS/DELTA Assessment Technique page.
Shenglen Zhang