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Planning for Teaching

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For some instructors, planning a course is as much fun -- or more fun -- than actually teaching the class. Finding the right textbook, deciding on the content of the course, planning learning activities, writing objectives, and designing exams and assessments, are all a part of the planning process. Moving the pieces of the puzzle around -- e.g. deciding what activities go where -- can be a fascinating challenge, and one that should start many months prior to teaching the class.

In his book Teaching Tips (in its 12th edition), author and instructional development specialist Wilbert McKeachie devotes a chapter to what he calls "Countdown for Course Preparation". According to McKeachie, "the first step in preparing for a course is the working out of course objectives, because the choice of text, the selection of the type and order of assignments, the choice of teaching techniques, and all the decisions involved in course planning should derive from your objectives." If your course goals and objectives are not well thought out, you may end up driving to St. Louis when your goal was to drive to Chicago.

Once your course goals (aka "overarching objectives" or course "mission") are determined, you can start to rough out your course syllabus. Your syllabus should include such things as your contact information, the course goals, the course materials, the course policy regarding attendance, a statement about academic integrity, a statement about students with disabilities, the types and dates of the assignments, the types and dates of the quizzes, projects, and exams, and a day-to-day schedule of the topics. It's especially important to decide how you will handle such things as late work, absences, and cheating prior to the beginning of the semester. Putting clear statements of these things in your course syllabus will be tremendously helpful in case there's a problem once the semester begins.

Once your syllabus and overall plans are in place, you can begin to plan your lectures. Each lecture should have specific objectives that you want your students to master. As you're writing the objectives for each lesson, you can simultaneously work on the way you're going to assess whether or not that learning took place.

It's important to keep your objectives, classroom activities, and assessment techniques congruent. In other words, don't teach at the literal level and then test at the application level. Or, don't say that you're going to give a multiple choice exam, and then change your mind and give an essay test.

For specific tips on planning your instruction, click on "Words of Wisdom" below.

[ References ]   [ Links ]   [ Words of Wisdom ]