The "HOW TO" Collection -- General Introduction

    This collection contains several sample "how to do it" instructions that are designed to be handed out to teaching assistants, students, etc. as appropriate. Most of them were written for a particular course or assignment but are easily generalizable. The instructions are made available in electronic form so you can modify them to suit your needs without serious retyping.  (Most files are in HTML; the manuals are also in pdf.) Please feel free to download these files, edit them, and use them for educational purposes, but also please credit the source. The types of instructions are as follows:

1. Instructions to Graders -- How to grade test papers.

2. Paper Questions -- How to read and analyze a paper. This can be easily modified so that the examples are from the first paper the students are asked to read.

3. How to Take Notes on a Paper -- This is a shorter version of the Paper Questions with a slightly different emphasis.

4. How to Give an Oral Report -- How to present a paper or an experiment so "what they really did" gets across.

5. Writing a Lab Report --  Notes to Student Experimenters -- How to write a laboratory report.

6. What to Look For -- Things a Good Lecturer Usually Does --This is a list of things to consider when observing a class and it is also a useful list to keep in mind when giving a lecture yourself. (See also  item #10 below.)

7. How to be a Good TA -- A Manual for Teaching Assistants (pdf). This was originally designed for TAs in the bio dept, but most of the advice is applicable to TAs in any department. This manual has been used by TAs in many different departments, including economics. The manual is also available in HTML. For a few additional tips on explaining, see item #9 below.

8. How to Teach Scientific Concepts & Problem Solving (pdf). This overlaps with the TA manual, but focuses on explaining. It deals with issues faced by teachers of science at all levels -- not just TAs. It is also available in HTML. If you already have the TA manual, you don't need this one -- you only need the excerpts in item 9 below.

9. Explain More (pdf) --  More tips on explaining. This contains the parts of  'How to Teach Scientific Concepts & Problem Solving' that are not included in the manual for TAs (item #7 above). This is also available in HTML.

10. What NOT to do. Things a Bad Lecturer Usually Does.  Sometimes it is easier to realize what you should do after you see a bad example. 

11. How to do a Workshop on Practically Anything. This method has been used to design a least 9 different workshops on different topics.  Items 7,  8 & 13 were created for workshops designed using this method. For a video with an example of such a workshop (on how to get scientists to run a discussion section) go to For links to the video (& the transcript) and the accompanying manual, chose 'general science' as the discipline, and 'all types' for the resource.

12. Advice to Students -- The Top 10 Tips. This advice was written for students in a specific course in a specific educational institution (Introduction to Cell & Molecular Biology at Columbia University). Some of this advice is course specific, but most of it applies to other college science courses. See the links at the bottom of the '10 tips page' or Advice for additional advice to students on how to succeed. Feel free to download these files and adapt them to fit the style of your course and the needs of your students.

13. Resources for New Teachers . This collection was assembled for post-docs who are trained as researchers and are now going to teach science to undergraduates. However anyone teaching undergraduates may find this collection helpful. It includes a list of online resources, a list of print resources (2pp), two different lists of good practices (one from a scientist and one from a historian), a general page of advice based on observations of new (science) teachers, and instructions on how to write objectives (outcomes). A paper version including some additional materials is available.

Please let me know if you find these files useful. I would appreciate any comments or suggestions and any similar "how to's" you would like to link to the collection. If you would like any additional information, please email me.

All materials may be used for noncommercial purposes without additional permission, as long as the author is credited.

Dr. Deborah Mowshowitz
[email protected]

Updated: 06/21/2017