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December 17, 2020

From: Denise K. Magner

Subject: The Quick Tip: Prepare for Next Semester's Classes Without Overpreparing

The sooner you find in-class exercises that work for you, the more you'll find yourself well-prepared and ready for the unexpected.

If you are already worrying about your new courses for next semester, you may have plenty of good reasons for that — namely, the complications of Covid-19 and remote teaching. But some of the stress may arise from a common faculty problem: You are overpreparing for class.

Faculty members overprepare for lots of reasons. You want to ensure that students recognize and respect your expertise. You are nervous that you will run out of material. You want to make sure that class runs as smoothly as possible, so you attempt to foresee every potential problem in advance.

The best way to help yourself escape the problem of overpreparation? Let go of the fantasy that you must use every minute of a strictly planned class schedule to introduce, explain, clarify, and cover. Let the homework you’ve assigned — readings, problem sets, videos — do some of the introducing, explaining, clarifying, and covering for you.

Your goal here is to devise, identify, test, and refine a small number of strategies that you can deploy at any moment you need them in class. They can be modified within different contexts and time frames. Best of all, these approaches aren’t just to fill class time and free up your schedule but are well-grounded in the literature on human learning. For example:

  • Start class with a writing exercise.
  • End class with a “connection” question.
  • Ask students to annotate a text in small groups.
  • Try electronic polling in class.

Continue reading: "How to Prepare for Class Without Overpreparing," by James M. Lang

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Denise K. Magner is senior editor of The Chronicle’s advice section, which features articles written by academics for academics on faculty and administrative career issues.