How do you keep you head above water when you are teaching a class for the first time?
Planning to teach a new class can be extremely time consuming, a bit overwhelming, stressful…..need we go on? But does it have to be? Are there ways to create lessons that are effective, in a timely manner, with reduced stress?
YES! Let us share some ideas that may reduce stress and make preparing to teach a new class a bit easier.
The syllabus is your roadmap!
As instructors, we harp on students to read the syllabus. This is their guide to the elements and expectations of the course. If a syllabus is provided as part of a centralized curriculum, then just as we instruct students to do, start your preparation by reading the syllabus! Before you begin planning a lecture and putting together powerpoints, it is important to review the syllabus. Many colleges and universities are moving toward a centralized curriculum for accreditation purposes, which means you will not be expected to write your own syllabus. The syllabus will detail course objectives, the required readings, and assignment guidelines. Reviewing the syllabus will help you to prepare your lectures and powerpoints. So, this should be your starting point.
Course Objectives, Readings and Assignments
Course objectives are statements that clearly detail what students will learn by the end of the course. Review the course objectives and focus on creating lectures that include and expand on the course objectives. As you create your lectures, it is also important to cover required readings as this will help you to prepare for class and answer questions that student might ask. Review assignment requirements. Determine if there is information that you will need to present in class to ensure students are prepared to complete assignments.
Consider if the topics can be covered by participating in activities. When students can apply the information they are learning, rather than passively listening to it being presented in a lecture format, this will increase the chances they they learn and remember the information. For example, have students come up with examples to illustrate definitions rather than simply just writing definitions to terms. They can share their examples in class. This activity breaks up lecturing, gets students involved, and helps them to apply the terms/definitions they are learning. This is also a great way to complement powerpoint slides, if terms are included and they are a bit dry (like they may be the first time you teach a class).
Students Prepare and Teach Lessons
You may also consider how students can contribute to the planning of the class. You are the instructor. You are paid to be the content expert, but that doesn’t mean that students can’t prepare and present information on topics. Are there topics that students would benefit from researching and presenting to their peers? This should not replace you planning, but rather should complement it. You will be responsible to add or clarify information as students share their presentations.
Students are creative and can come up with some very interesting presentations, activities, etc. when they are challenged with this task. As long as they are learning the material, and you are guiding the process, you have done your job. Have them help with the planning!
For example, I teach a capstone class for senior students. While I could stand and talk to them about preparation for job interviews, I find it more effective to break students into pairs and have them research small topics that are related to interviewing (ex. interview questions and answers, phone interviewing tips, how to dress professionally, business casual versus business attire, how to write an post-interview thank you note or email). Each pair is asked to put together a 3-5 minute presentation on the topic. They also have to include one deliverable – a sheet with some tips, a power point presentation, a resource that their peers can refer back to.
This activity is one that students enjoy – they like to hear from their peers. And….they are gaining the necessary information on their topic as well. This also generates some really good discussions. Finally, they are practicing their public speaking and presenting skills. Being an effective communicator is important regardless of your major.
5 Tips for Accepting and Planning to Teach A Class for the First Time
- Do not accept contracts for classes that you are not qualified to teach. You are the content expert paid to present the material. If your educational training and experience have not prepared you to teach the content, then do not accept the contract.
- Review the textbook and assigned readings before you begin planning. Being familiar with what the students are reading will assist you preparing class lecture and experiences for students. It will also help to prepare you to answer questions that students ask.
- Use the publisher resources. Most publishers will provide resources through a website. You may have to request access to the publisher resources. You can send an email request to the publisher and ask for access to be granted. Publisher resources often include powerpoints, test banks, and activities.
Please note: you may need to adjust and adapt these resources. For example, you may need to revise powerpoints to make them a bit more interesting or interactive.
- Locate and incorporate videos, such as TED talks.
- Implement activities! Activities help to reinforce information that they have reviewed in their weekly reading or that you have presented in class during lecture. When they are engaged and actively participating, they are learning!