||In reply to a question from
Chris Cramer / October 17, 2013
Paulette (@pinkyprincess) asked me "do you have a system for planning
your classes?". So, that's not a rocket-science sort of question, but it
definitely takes more than 140 characters. And, while I could send email,
what the heck, maybe others will find some pearl of wisdom in this if
they're not themselves already used to doing something similar.
Step 1: Confirm the length of your class.
Step 2: Identify the resources that you want to use to support your teaching (e.g., textbook, online sources, guest speakers, etc.)
Step 3: From those sources, select what you want actually to cover given your available time frame.
Step 4: (an important one) If you are early in your teaching career, cut the amount you just decided upon in Step 3 roughly in half. Seriously -- you're generally going to be teaching about something you have experience with and also just love, so you are likely to seriously underestimate the amount of time students will need to grapple with it as a new and perhaps not loved curriculum.
Step 5: Divide total amount to be covered into total number of class periods minus about two times the total number of exams if you plan to give those in class. The factor of two reflects that you are likely to need at least one class completely devoted to catching up and review for each section that you intend to assess with an exam.
Step 6: Make a spreadsheet with a row for each day.
Step 7: Enter into your spreadsheet your coverage goal, day by day, citing the materials that you plan to use. When you're done, consider whether you might want to add some other notes to those days (e.g., is there a great demonstration that might enhance a lecture? or, if you're doing active learning, are there specific activities you plan?) Don't forget to identify the review days and the exam days.
Step 8: Double check that you used the right year for your calendar. Double check that you really do have the start and finish dates correct.
Step 9: Use that spreadsheet to help you create a syllabus -- make it as easy as possible for the students to be as aware as you are of what is to happen in every class.
Step 10: Teach.
Step 11: No plan survives first contact with the enemy. Er... I mean, the students. So, after each class, make a note in your spreadsheet about anything you'd like to add/change/etc. the next time.
Step 12: Iterate to perfection. (P.S. You'll never think it's perfect. Which is good. Shows you're a teacher.)
OK, that's obviously quick and dirty, and no doubt others have great experience to draw upon and great advice to offer. If you write it up somewhere on the great and powerful interwebz, and I find the time to do it, I'll add some links here for posterity.
Last thing: Good luck to Paulette!