What do you want to do differently?

The start of the new semester offers academics a fresh start: whether you’re teaching new courses or not, you probably have mostly new students in them. Perhaps you’ve changed the readings or assignments. Your daily or weekly schedule might be different from the previous semester.

Maybe you’ve also got some New Year’s resolutions you want to keep in mind this semester, or larger personal or professional goals that are a priority for you right now.

So, thinking about all of those pieces of the puzzle, what do you want to do differently this semester?

Your first answer to that question might be very general (“stay healthy”) or very specific (“grade all quizzes within one day”). Whatever your answer is, the next step is to ask: what three specific things can I do to make this change?
So, for staying healthy as the goal, maybe your three specific things would be:

  1. sleep 8 hours a night

  2. wash hands for 60 seconds each time

  3. take a multivitamin every day

For grading quizzes within one day, which is already a fairly specific goal, it might at first seem difficult to break it down further. After all, some people would just say, well, just do it — just grade the quizzes. But if that were so simple for you, then you would already be doing it.  So your three things might be:

  1. give quizzes on Thursdays since I have more time on Friday mornings to grade them

  2. design the quizzes to be easier to grade

  3. reward myself with lunch with a friend if I get the quizzes done

Why three things? Because this helps break down an abstract or difficult change into smaller steps that are easier to accomplish. If you start consistently doing even just one of them, you’ll be much more likely to make the change you desire.

So: what do you want to do differently this semester? And what steps might help you make that change?

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Fimb]

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