3 June, 2016
Svinicki & McKeachie (2011) suggest starting to plan a course 3 months in advance. Heppner (2007) estimates that it takes “80 hours of preparation time for an absolutely minimal, barely professional job”.
Here are some things to consider in the planning process to help make sure that the work you do is efficient, effective, and manageable:
1. Planning your Large Lecture Course
- Define thecourse learning outcomes.
- Have time in class toengage students in learning activities. Lecturing and note taking alone may stimulate students to simply attain and remember content.
- Choose course content selectively. It is not easy to cover as much material in a large lecture course compared to a smaller class. Select only the most important points or topics and collect clear examples that can be used to illustrate those concepts or ideas.
- Organize your course content into meaningful units throughout the semester. Davis (2009, p. 137) suggests various ways to arrange course material, such as topically (e.g., divide material by how major theorists approach course content), or sequentially (e.g., divide material into major stages).
- Large lecture courses ensure a wide range of students.Integrate diversity when designing your course and plan to use inclusive teaching strategies.
Writing your Syllabus
With a larger class, removing potential confusion over course expectations and policies can save you (and your TAs) hours of emails and office hour meetings. Many of these ideas for writing your syllabus come from Heppner (2007, p. 22-25).
- Include as much information as possible about your course.
- Have a few colleagues and TAs check your syllabus for clarity before finalizing your draft.
- When scheduling exams or assignment due dates, don’t set them near holidays. There will always be students who will not be able to make it either before or after due to travel restrictions.
- Don’t have a guest lecturer visit immediately after students receive grades or feedback. A number of students may not be receptive.
- Once you have a reading assignment schedule, try not to deviate from this schedule in your class.
- Try to anticipate student questions and proactively address them in the syllabus.
2. Reviewing your Resources
Start thinking about what resources you have and how to put them to good use to address your specific needs. You might consider the available technology, the number of TAs (grads or undergrads?), colleagues with experience in teaching large lecture courses who are available for you to consult with, and available texts, and/or materials for developing a course reading packet.
- Preview your lecture space.
- Do you have or need a microphone?
- Is there room for you to walk around during class? If not, separate a couple of rows for you to do so.
- Stand in the back of the room and check what students in the back row will be able to see like your handwriting on the board.
- Plan to use a projector. Preparing to organize and present content visually with technology such asPowerPoint is more significant as class sizes grow. The use of visual technology accommodates different learning styles. Additionally, the use of visual organizers, such as agendas and transition slides, can help keep everyone in the room on track.
- Plan to use an online course management system, such asBlackboard, where you can:
- Have students turn in assignments online using Blackboard’s assignment tool. This is much more efficient than gathering them by hand or through email, and it leaves no room for losing or misplacing assignments.
- Organize and post course-related material online for students to access themselves. This will save you from the time spent printing and distributing materials.
- Store and keep track of students’ grades.
- Give an online discussion space for students to ask questions related to the course.