Monday, August 10, 2015

Prep Time: tips for new profs.

Hi Readers,

I love it when you ask me to write more, thanks. Classes will begin again soon, so what's a prof to do with about 1 month to go? I will tell you what I am doing. 

1. Scheduling classes in an excel spreadsheet. I start with an excel spreadsheet that has every class period written in it. Here are the headings: 
Block, Week, Day, Date, Note, Pre-class prep, In-class, In Lab, Due before lab
  • There are 4 blocks in my class, and there are 4 block exams. There are about 3 chapters per block and they fit together schematically. This is pretty traditional, and the chunking really helps me and them.
  • There are traditionally 14-15 weeks per semester, and I list these. Holiday weeks, such as breaks aren't counted as weeks.
  • Putting both the day and the date helps clarify things and prevent disastrous mistakes.
  • Notes include seminar series speakers (not in-class time), drop dates,  break days, etc.
  • Pre-class prep includes the chapter reading, etc. I keep it simple for this particular freshman level class, so only text readings.
  • In-class includes both lectures and POGILS (this year I am implementing quite a few of these group-discovery-based activities).
  • In-Lab describes which lab activities from the lab book we are doing. I also supplement or replace these occasionally. These are fairly traditional labs, but I used a different lab book last year that was "visual based", and it bored the hell out of them, because it just asked them to look at pictures and respond. I've gone back to the more traditional experiment and dissection based labs.
  • Due Before Lab includes lab reports worksheets, mini-papers, etc. For this class it's mostly lab book based worksheets. Even though what's due before lab is exactly what we did last week, this needs to be explicitly written out for these first-year students.
The spreadsheet allows me to enter and change lectures and activities with an overview picture. It helps to balance competing goals such as keeping an even number of chapters per test and not scheduling exams right after breaks, etc. 

2. Running through each lab and making a list of supplies needed for it. THIS MUST BE DONE EARLY, believe-you-me. Delegate or order the lab materials.

3. Ordering equipment for my research lab that will be added or replaced due to the renovation. Currently my research lab is in a pile of boxes in a teaching lab until we are granted occupancy to the research suite.

4. Reading up an a new subject to help revitalize and old course. In case you are curious, I am currently reading "Neuroscience in Education: The Good the Bad and the Ugly". This book confirms some of my suspicions about the "Neurowashing" of the subject of Education. The course I am rehabbing is taking place next semester, but now is the time to do the heavy lifting. Now also is when I have the salary stipend, an additional 3 weeks on my 9-month salary (I wrote and won an intramural grant).

That's it for now, keep telling me you are reading. Thanks for your input.

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