Open Thread Wednesday: Teaching Resolutions for a New Semester

No Resolutions 2010I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s Resolution making–perhaps in part because the change of calendar occurs mid-academic year, rather than at the start of summer when a new beginning feels truly possible.  For many of us, there are only a few weeks between the end of fall semester and the beginning of spring or winter term, and it’s a time more for hectic planning than total makeover.

Most New Year’s Resolutions are too big for our short breather before the next round of classes, so I’m staying away from major teaching overhauls and looking for changes I can stick with. As Amy pointed out, the middle of the year is a perfect time to learn from our mistakes, and perhaps improve next semester’s outcomes. I’ve been considering this more than usual because for the first time I’m teaching one of my courses in both fall and spring semesters, so I’ll be able to make changes right away. This is both good and bad. I can’t make any radical changes to the physical class texts, which were confirmed with the  bookstore months before I’d decided if they worked, but I can change the way I structure material and assignments to address the weaknesses I saw in the fall. I’ve decided to focus on what I can control.

  • Be kinder to my future self–especially when scheduling deadlines. This semester, I ended up with all my classes major projects due on the same days, which I could have easily avoided if I’d thought it through. Instead, I ended up being under a lot of self-inflected pressure trying to keep up with next-week project returns. I found myself wishing I’d been kinder to my future self, and hope to improve this semester.
  • Leave more wiggle room in the syllabus. I’ve been teaching a lot of programming lately, and whenever technology is involved lesson time is lost to downloading plug-ins and updates, handling lab challenges like file management and organization, and even unexpected conflicts caused by loading files made in one version of a program in an older iteration.
  • Be more flexible. Just as much a life resolution as a classroom one, being flexible can mean small things–like changing a deadline on a project after a challenging class session–or big things, like throwing out an assignment I love when it doesn’t serve any more clear role in the course. This is particularly important for the planning phase that comes right after fall grading ends.
What are your teaching resolutions for next semester, big or small? Share your goals and strategies in the comments!

[CC BY 2.0 Photo by Flickr User Kate Ter Haar]

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