Teaching Front-End Programming – Day 0

Teaching is hard. I was recently hired to be an instructor the Front-End Web Development course at General Assembly. This series of posts will be a continuous series about the smaller issues and my thoughts on the teaching process and General Assembly as well as general advice for future instructors. Maybe it’ll be helpful, maybe it won’t but I have yet to find anyone articulating their thoughts on the process anywhere. Of course I’ve talked to previous instructors but no formal written down anything that I could refer to.

I don’t know about others but the entire “teaching a group of students” is exciting but slightly intimidating. There’s a lot of material and the General Assembly curriculum while providing a good outline need more detailed.

The first thing I would say is that Kelly Mason, the San Francisco Program Manager has been a great resources to answer questions and provide feedback.

Teaching Adults

So one of the best things I did was go to teacher training with Jesse Slocum. She basically covered teaching techniques and adult learning theory.

The basic tenets from the class that I got was:

  • You are teaching adults and thus you should not be condescending or belittle them. They might not understand the material but dumbing it down doesn’t really work as well.
  • They have goals in mind and want to apply their learning immediately. Teaching a child algebra doesn’t really provide them practical application immediately, but programming lets you apply that learning immediately.
  • They’re motivated by internal factors, so you don’t have to worry about keeping the room quiet, or teenage angst. But there will be pride.

Structuring a class


Just like a good story, a teaching session should have a narrative. The objectives in the beginning of the class should be clearly stated and you should constantly tie back to them. This allows for a proper narrative and always to understand WHY you’re learning something.

These objectives should always be attainable and measurable and you should not use the word “understand”. By the end of the class, every student should be able to do the objectives you mentioned. Examples include

Predict styling behavior from conflicting rules using your knowledge of ‘specificity’ and ‘inheritance’


The idea of scaffolding in teaching is the idea of building up a project in your lesson in order to help students make the connections of building it themselves later. Again, this goes back into the narrative thing. If you build a HTML web page, and then style it. It makes more sense than creating two separate projects, you can see the process of going from nothing to a web page to a styled web page.

There’s a lot more involved in the class than this including teaching techniques to provide interaction in the class, a practice lesson with constructive feedback, and a lot more. Take the course if you can!

Curriculum Planning

There’s a lot of materials to teach and probably one of the best things that I’ve been told over and over: Change the curriculum to suit what you want to teach. This is a pretty hard hurdle to get over since there’s already a lot of structure. The only major thing that you need to know is cover the basic materials. First few lessons are covering HTML and css, just remember they should be able to do homework or just change the homework assignment.