10 Top Tips for Teaching University Students

university students in a lecture hall

Published: October 11th, 2023

Teaching university students can be such a rewarding experience. You’ll be guiding and shaping the minds of each learner, helping them to prepare for the next stage of their life. 

But, as rewarding as it is, it’s natural to feel excitement and apprehension as you step into the classroom for the first time. Teachers can no longer simply stand at the front of a lecture hall and talk at their students relentlessly until the hour is up. Likewise, it can be difficult to know how to measure student engagement at university, since lecturers and seminar leaders can often feel far removed from their students.

Like any good educator, you’ll want to create an inspiring and inclusive learning environment that nurtures curiosity, fosters growth, and ignites a passion for knowledge. 

That’s where we come in. We’ll give you the best higher education teaching tips, including how to incorporate interactive displays into your lectures and seminars, which will help you navigate the unique challenges of a university-level teaching career and leave a lasting positive impact on the individual academic journeys of your students.

10 tips to improve university students’ learning experience

Students may find the transition to university overwhelming, with so many new things to get used to. To make the adjustment more manageable, here are 10 tips to improve students’ learning experience and maximise what they can achieve:  

1. Be well-prepared

Being well-prepared is the best way to begin building a successful learning experience for your students. It can also be a constant source of reassurance and a fundamental pillar for your confidence in the classroom.

When you invest the time and effort to prepare your lesson plan and course materials thoroughly, you’ll discover lots of benefits.

Firstly, being well-prepared will give you a sense of confidence and composure. As you step into the classroom, you’ll feel ready to take on any challenge that comes your way. This confidence will naturally radiate to your students, creating a positive and engaging atmosphere where they feel assured that you’re a knowledgeable and dependable guide on their chosen course.

Preparation also gives you a better grasp of the learning objectives, course content, and essential topics you want to cover. This clarity will help you articulate complex concepts in a way that students can readily understand, reducing confusion.

2. Know your students

When teaching students, taking the time to understand them personally can greatly amplify your ability to create an inclusive and supportive learning environment.

Understanding students’ unique backgrounds, learning styles, and aspirations enables you to tailor your teaching approach and provide personalised support.

You’ll also be able to tailor lessons to suit specific learning styles, be a more empathetic and compassionate educator, and offer guidance and resources that align with their aspirations.

Embrace this opportunity to connect with your students, and you’ll witness its positive impact on their engagement, motivation, and overall journey as learners. Ultimately, you’ll enhance their university experience and success in their studies.

3. Establish clear expectations

From the beginning, communicate your expectations regarding attendance, essays, grading criteria, and classroom conduct. Setting clear guidelines will help your students know what you expect of them and reduce misunderstandings.

Setting clear expectations helps manage students’ time and priorities effectively. University life can be demanding, and when students clearly understand deadlines and their workload, they can plan their schedules accordingly, avoiding last-minute rushes and unnecessary stress.

It also promotes accountability and responsibility. Students can use this transparency around grading criteria and performance standards to take ownership of their learning and strive to do their best. They know what they must achieve and can track their progress throughout the course.

4. Encourage active learning

Encourage students with active learning to fuel their curiosity, engagement, and a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

Incorporating discussions, group activities, and hands-on exercises where appropriate creates opportunities to help engage university students, who are of course a notoriously difficult age to reach. You’ll manage to not only keep their attention and encourage participation in class discussions, work collaboratively, and explore concepts through problem-solving.

Active learning also nurtures critical thinking and problem-solving skills. When students actively analyse information, they develop valuable cognitive abilities that extend beyond the classroom. These skills are crucial for their personal growth and future career success.

5. Foster open communication

It’s important to create a supportive and inclusive environment where students feel comfortable asking questions and expressing their thoughts. Encourage open dialogue and be approachable to address any concerns or challenges they may face.

By letting students know their voices are valued and respected, you’ll motivate them to engage more in the learning process, contributing to vibrant class discussions.

Another positive that can come out of open communication when teaching is that it allows you to address your students’ concerns and obstacles proactively. By encouraging them to share their thoughts or seek clarification, you can identify potential challenges early on and provide the necessary support to ensure their academic success.

6. Use real-life examples

Real-life examples bring course material to life, making abstract concepts more tangible and helping students understand complex topics. By adopting this approach to teaching, you’re adding a captivating and relatable dimension to your lessons that will stick in students’ minds.

Using real-life examples allows you to showcase the practical implications of the knowledge you share. This helps students recognise the value of their learning and how they can apply it to their careers. This newfound awareness can motivate them to delve deeper into the subject and explore its potential impact on their chosen fields.

Real-life examples also cater to the diverse backgrounds and experiences of your students. By incorporating scenarios that resonate with various cultures and perspectives, you create an inclusive learning environment where every student can see themselves reflected in the course content.

7. Provide timely feedback

Another of our good teaching tips – be prompt with your feedback. By promptly reviewing and returning essays and assessments, you allow your students to understand their strengths and areas for improvement. At the same time, the material from the module is still fresh in their minds.

It also shows your commitment to your student’s success with more than just words. By providing timely feedback to learners, you’ll help them to feel supported and valued, which, in turn, fosters a positive and encouraging classroom environment.

It’s helpful to keep the feedback as constructive as possible when giving assignments back. You’ll contribute to their continuous improvement by addressing any areas of struggle and suggestions on moving forward. Students appreciate knowing that you acknowledge their efforts and assess their work with care. This rapport encourages open communication, making it easier for students to ask questions or discuss their academic progress with you.

8. Be flexible with teaching methods

It’s important to recognise that every class you teach – and the individual students within them – will be different. Flexibility allows you to tailor your teaching to consider how different students learn.

You can also use flexibility to appeal to their interests, academic backgrounds, and varying levels of knowledge. This personalised touch enhances their learning experience and fosters a sense of belonging and appreciation for their individuality.

Moreover, being flexible enables you to explore various teaching techniques and resources. Embrace the opportunity to incorporate multimedia presentations, online tools, hands-on activities, and discussions. This variety keeps the classroom dynamic and exciting, maintaining your students’ enthusiasm for learning during their time with you.

9. Use technology effectively

You may find that using laptops and tablets to take notes during a lecture sometimes affects students’ learning, as they can be a constant distraction. 

With technology more prevalent than ever, embracing it during lectures and seminars could increase student engagement and make teaching easier. 

Interactive whiteboards, like our ActivPanel Display, can bring a new dimension to your teaching materials and presentations as you utilise multimedia elements, like videos or interactive quizzes with apps like Kahoot! These presentations and apps are much more exciting than traditional slideshows. You can integrate online games, which is more engaging and enjoyable than writing notes. 

Additionally, you can use these tools to access online resources and recommend your students watch documentaries or listen to podcasts to supplement course content. This is also useful for engaging your students’ different learning styles. 

Using technology effectively allows you to break geographical barriers and connect with experts and other educators worldwide, as well as help to engage international students, by breaking down language or cultural barriers. Embrace the possibility of organising virtual guest lectures or collaborative projects that expose your students to diverse perspectives. Technology can only enrich their understanding of the subject and broaden their horizons.

10. Seek advice to improve continuously

As a first-time university educator, seeking advice from experienced colleagues, mentors, or educational workshops will provide invaluable insights and guidance. Embrace the opportunity to learn from those who have walked the path before you. You’re sure to benefit from their wisdom and expertise.

Receiving advice and feedback allows you to reflect on your teaching methods and identify areas for improvement. Embracing constructive criticism demonstrates your dedication to becoming an even more effective and impactful educator.

Also, seeking advice fosters a sense of community among educators. Share experiences and collaborate with your peers, knowing that you are not alone in your journey. Learning from others’ successes and challenges can provide new perspectives and ideas that enrich your teaching approach.

Keep students engaged with the Promethean ActivPanel 

To help maximise your students’ learning experience, it’s essential that you get to know them and encourage them to communicate openly with you and with one another. This will make it easier for you to implement active learning strategies and establish clear expectations. Using interactive whiteboards in higher education is one great way of doing this.

Once your students see that you’re organising lectures and seminars that appeal to them and their different interests and learning styles, they will reciprocate and engage more by using real-life examples. Ultimately, by implementing the tips in this guide, you’ll create a learning environment that empowers your students and helps them to reach their potential. 

Check out the Promethean blog for five tips on engaging with university students. Alternatively, read our guide to help you understand how to appeal to each of the four learning styles in university lectures and seminars. 


What makes a good university teacher?

Qualities that make a good university teacher include the following:

  • Being a great communicator
  • Staying balanced and organised
  • Being passionate about the subject you’re teaching
  • Developing strong, respectful relationships with students
  • Using effective discipline techniques when necessary

How do I teach at university?

Qualifications you’ll need: 

  • A bachelor’s degree (2:1 or above)
  • A master’s and a PhD in a relevant field.

While completing your PhD, use any teaching opportunities to build your skills and experience. After finishing your doctorate, try to publish your work as a book or series of articles. Publishing is an essential step on the path to becoming a lecturer.

Employers will be keen to see that you can circulate your research, so giving papers at conferences, workshops, and lectures could provide excellent opportunities.

What are the modern teaching techniques in further education?

  1. Flipped classroom – Students learn about the subject independently, then come to the classroom to ask and answer questions and practise with a collaborative project or activity on the topic.
  2. Collaborative learning – Teachers form a group of students, allow them to solve their problems, and hold debates/discussions on topics. The strategy also allows learners to develop skills such as active listening and working together in a team while receiving genuine feedback on their work.
  3. Technology-based learning – The effective use of smart boards, webinars, e-learning courses etc.
  4. Gamification – This is where educators integrate elements of game design to make course content more engaging. This could, for example, include offering badges on completion of a quiz or scoring students based on completing challenges.