Best Teaching Ideas and Worst Teaching Challenges

Last year, the Center for Teaching & Learning launched Communities of Practice (CoP): small interdisciplinary groups of faculty and staff who have similar work, and who gather regularly to exchange ideas and learn from one another. Below, you’ll find a teaching note from one of the CoPs that summarizes some of their key takeaways from last year.

“Best Teaching Ideas and Worst Teaching Challenges” ran during the academic year 2022-23 as a Community of Practice (CoP) with the intention to help faculty members gain inspiration from each other about pedagogical practices, and to support each other on the challenges they encounter in the classroom. Communities of Practice are safe spaces for exchanging knowledge, in this case, pertinent advice on what works and doesn’t work in teaching.

As a group, we have achieved our goal. Like other CoPs organized last year, ours broke departmental and campus silos. The six members that comprised our group came from the Long Island, New York City, and Vancouver campuses, and represented four schools.

Best Teaching Ideas

Needless to say, we shared outstanding teaching ideas!

  • Mena Youssef discussed the use of infographics in his chemistry class.
  • Hyun-Tae Jung shared his assignment on the travelogue for architecture students.
  • Beth Elenko brought samples of her case studies-roleplay, in which students are provided narratives by Snow White and the Seven dwarfs to simulate Qualitative Reseach data so they can learn analysis and processes.
  • Lissi Athanasiou-Krikelis described museum-type activities in which students move around the classroom to accomplish tasks.
  • Seow Mu elaborated on gamification (the use of games) in the classroom.
  • Yusui Chen shared his experiences “flipping” his physics class.

It was truly satisfying to recognize the innovation across departments and campuses; as instructors, we want to learn from each other and to share our own knowledge in order to best motivate our students and stimulate learning.

Worst Teaching Challenges

When we discussed challenges in the classroom, we received and gave practical feedback on day-to-day challenges. For example, how do we deal with students’ excessive absences? How do we address disruptive student behavior or student preparedness? How do we help students who enter our classes lacking pre-requisite skills? How do you treat (adult) students who resist student-centered class activities? The number of recommendations for each of these challenges was often larger than the number of members in the virtual room. As one example, below are some of the recommendations the group shared for “student preparedness”:

  • Require students to take a short Canvas quiz either before class or during the first ten minutes of class; the quiz consists of questions from the required reading/homework.
  • Offer short video lectures with salient homework content; add quiz questions in the video to ensure students’ engagement.
  • To review course content and to help those who are unable to complete the homework, spend ten minutes at the start of class with a game, such as Kahoot!, Course-Content Bingo, or Goose-Chase.
  • When you plan to flip the classroom, inform students ahead of time, and underscore that omitting the homework will render them unable to participate in classroom (group) activities.
  • Openly discuss study habits with students.

No single approach could address all such challenges. What might work one semester with a particular cohort could prove inadequate for the next group of students and vice versa. In other words, “what works can also fail.” Combining approaches and constantly experimenting with new and old solutions might be the only effective way to address challenges in the classroom.

Our discussions on challenges helped us acknowledge that we are not alone in our struggles. In some cases, the group members couldn’t provide solutions the instructor hadn’t already attempted. Our CoP reminded us that not all challenges can be eliminated. Finding solidarity as we traverse through these issues affirms the need for perpetuating diverse CoP among colleagues and ultimately contributes to our mental and emotional wellbeing.

Highlights from participants’ final reflections:

“The CoP has provided a platform for us to hear different perspectives and learn from others. We've been able to exchange valuable insights and strategies that are applicable across disciplines." – Yusui Chen

“I work with graduate students and many of my challenges were similar to those of the instructors of undergrads." – Beth Elenko

"Our conversations were casual yet informative and inspiring." – Hyun-Tae Jung

“If you are a dedicated educator but don’t know where and how to start reinventing your teaching, you should be part of a CoP. It makes me feel that I am not alone, I can move along with my colleagues at NYIT.” – Seow Mun Hue

"Although we were discussing challenges we commonly face in the classroom, I feel that it was immensely beneficial to work together and brainstorm practical approaches to tackling these teaching challenges directly" – Mena Youssef

“The CoP helped me discover solidarity in recognizing that other instructors face similar challenges; navigating through the challenges proved rewarding to me as both a human being and as an instructor” – Lissi Athanasiou-Krikelis


  • Aburahma, M.H. and H.M. Mohamed. (2015). Educational Games as a Teaching Tool in Pharmacy Curriculum. Am J Pharm Educ 79(4): Article 59.
  • Tietze KJ. (2007). A Bingo Game Motivates Students to Interact with Course Material. Am J Pharm Educ. 71(4):Article 79.

Members of the CoP:

Lissi Athanasiou-Krikelis, Associate Professor, Humanities, and director of Interdisciplinary Studies, CAS (organizer)

Yusui Chen, Assistant Professor, Physics, CAS

Beth Elenko, Associate Professor, School of Health Professions, Occupational Therapy

Hyun-Tae Jung, Associate Professor, Architecture, SOAD

Seow Mun Hue, Adjunct Professor, Energy Management, Vancouver, COECS

Mena Youssef, Teaching Assistant Professor, B.S./D.O. Program Director, CAS