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Finding the Time to Teach Part 3 – Preparing to Teach

Posted by on Monday, February 28, 2011 in News.

Finding the Time to Teach Part 3 – Preparing to Teach is the third of a series of posts written by CFT Graduate Teaching Fellow, Lily Claiborne. These blog posts are intended to share ideas for prioritizing, planning, working efficiently, and avoiding procrastination – resulting in a more balanced, successful life in academia.

In my GradSTEP workshop on Finding the Time to Teach, we focused on the four main steps in managing your time well as an overcommitted graduate student and TA in order to be a successful teacher:

  1. Prioritize
  2. Plan
  3. Work Efficiently
  4. Avoid Procrastination

The following strategies will help you work more efficiently as a teacher, particularly when preparing for class.

If you spend two hours to create a good lesson plan, then four hours must be even better, right?  Not necessarily.  Robert Boice’s book, Advice for New Faculty Members: Nihil Nimus, should allow us all to breathe a sigh of relief.  Nihil Nimbus – Nothing in Excess.  In looking at successful new faculty across the country, Boice found that those who were moderate in the time they committed to all their academic pursuits had the most success, including as teachers.  This should carry over to our careers as graduate students and teachers, as well.

  • Remember the Pareto principle, or “80-20 rule”: 80 percent of the benefit occurs in the first 20 percent of preparation time.
  • Excessive preparation can result in too much attention to details and “covering content” at the expense of overall student learning.

The following schedule for preparing a class lecture is taken from the article “How much Preparation Time is Enough?” from The Teaching Toolbox column of Prism, the journal of the American Society for Engineering Education.

Schedule for preparing a class lecture:

After each task, put it aside until at least the next day.

10-15 minutes Create a title and conceptual outline

30-45 minutes Reread your outline and revise if needed.  Jot down brief explanations and examples.

30 minutes Finish the details.  Decide where to put in activities and what those will be.

15-30 minutes You now have lecture notes.  If you want to use powerpoint, use this draft of notes to quickly create your slides.  One last pass through your notes will correct major spelling errors, etc.

10-15 minutes Shortly before lecture, review your notes and prepare psychologically.

~ 2 hours total preparation time

Coming Next: Finding the Time to Teach Part 4 – Encouraging Active Students

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