Breaking the Mold: How I Became the GOAT of Classroom Expectations

ECA Blog: February 2024
Dr Elise Rivera, Early Career Academic Committee Member

When I think back to my experiences of the first day of class for new units of the term at university, they all started off generally the same – the lecturer gave a brief welcome and introduction, followed by a spiel about their expectations. I remember this generally being dry and matter of fact. I understood that my lecturers wanted to establish ground rules and classroom etiquette, but it did not always make for the most welcoming, exciting environment and sometimes left me feeling intimidated. So, when I got my first lecturing position, it made me really think about those memories and about how I wanted to go about establishing my own classroom expectations.
I opted for a different approach, which I call the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) approach, that I hoped would engage students, ease nerves, pique interest, and maybe even make them smile or laugh.

I started off by asking students if they had ever heard of the acronyms YOLO or FOMO, while writing them out on the whiteboard for anyone hearing them for the first time. Most students nodded – several laughed. I know some students were wondering “where is she going with this?”, which was part of my tactic to get their attention. I then displayed a slide titled “Elise’s GOAT Students”, which showcased my classroom expectations. Instead of stating a rule such as “attendance is required”, I framed this as “they enthusiastically arrive on time each week prepared and ready to engage”. I personally think that this delivers the same message. However, it is warmer and simply describes “Elise’s GOAT Students” instead of sounding like I am telling them what to do.
While my initial idea was to add some flair to expectation setting, I did not stop there. I also saw this as an opportunity to use the GOAT approach to hear their views. I used Slido to present the following question “What is a GOAT lecturer to you (what qualities do they have)?”. I advised students that this was anonymous to encourage safe sharing and gave them 3-5 minutes to type their thoughts. Little did I know how informative this would be to better understand the characteristics that the students valued and what they expect from educators. Of the 94 students (100% international) who shared their thoughts, the most common qualities were:

  • Approachable, empathetic, kind, and able to bond with students
  • Passionate and dedicated to student support with an understanding of students’ situations
  • Able to motivate and captivate students, while building their curiosity
  • Responsive to students’ queries and needs
  • Can teach rather than instruct.

This activity helped me to establish mutual respect and trust with my students. I believe it created a positive learning environment where students felt that their views would be acknowledged and where they felt safe to share their thoughts. It has been useful for informing my reflective teaching practice and continuously developing as an educator. Above all, my GOAT teaching activity enabled me to adapt my teaching style so that I could do my best to be the GOAT lecturer for my students. I invite all of you to embark on a journey to become the GOAT educator, herding your students toward the greener pastures of a personalised, positive and enjoyable learning environment with a sprinkle of acronym magic.


Dr Elise Rivera is a Lecturer in Public Health, teaching into the Master of Public Health and Emergency and Disaster Management courses at Central Queensland University. Her research interests include exploring ways to 1) develop students’ evaluative judgment and engagement and 2) optimise recreation environments to enhance health outcomes across the lifespan and among priority populations.


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What superpower do you wish you had? The ability to slow time

About the CAPHIA Early Career Academics Blog

This blog is a labour of love first imagined by the Early Career Academic Committee (ECAC) 2023-2025. You will get to know the ECAC as we share our experiences as well as storytelling by special guests.

Each month features a blog post from one of our ECAC members, as well as another blog post by a senior-level academic that they have invited to share their experiences and insights. The blog posts span the following themes: Greatest Of All Time (e.g., lecture, research, network experience, etc.), Dear Early or PhD Self (advice, learnings), and Lessons Learned.

It is our hope that this blog will:

  • Strengthen our Early Career Academic identity
  • Model mindsets, behaviours and practices
  • Share our triumphs and learnings
  • Support you in your academic career journey

If you are moved by a post, please reach out to the blogger’s nominated contact details. You are also welcome to share the posts on social media channels (e.g., LinkedIn) and with your networks. Enjoy this blog!

Find out more about the ECAC.