I have to confess, I love to prepare for my courses. It’s probably one of my favourite parts of working as a professor and, sadly, it’s a pleasure I’ve been denying myself for months as I focused on pressing issues of writing and editing.
Thursday, I finally broke down and opened up my word processor to get down to business. I’m starting with my senior seminar – I’m using three “new to teaching” monographs and one that I’ve taught with before (students will love/hate that book because it’s really engaging and opinionated but it’s also over 500 pages long). It was fun to pour out on paper the thoughts I’d been mulling over in my free time over the past few months: how many weeks for each subject area? What kinds of discussion questions to pose? Then I move onto the assignments and that opens up a new round of options. Will I be able to shoehorn in an essay proposal along with the essay itself? Do I ask for the essay in the second-to-last class meeting or at the very end of term?
A well-planned course is a thing of beauty. It clearly plays into the overall curriculum of the program, helping to build needed skills and guiding students clearly along their path to mastery. It lays out expectations for the overall class as well as each individual. It answers their questions about process and asks them questions about what they’ve learned.
A well-planned course is an awesome creation and even the best course can get better. That’s why, each year I toss my notes on what worked well and what didn’t into my course planning folder so that they’re right at hand when I’m back to teaching the course again. (Thank you, fabulous notes I left for myself in 2008 and 2011 to guide this fall’s revisions.) I eliminated some questions that weren’t really fruitful for my senior seminar and broke up another subtopic differently in light of how difficult it was to jump-start discussion the last go-round.
That’s the part I love about course-planning: playing with the possibilities of topics, readings, assignments and questions. A bit less fun, but just as engrossing? Tweaking the flow of the course over the meeting dates. It’s a lot of work to track exactly which days we meet in the term when the university’s calendar only shows start/end dates for the term along with holidays. (I’d kill for a calendar that included, you know, an actual calendar so I could see the dates each class is meeting instead of having to remember that if my class is a Wednesday-only class that we don’t meet the final Wednesday of term which is, instead, a make-up date for Thanksgiving Monday.)
I’ve put the planning aside again after this initial rough-in. Why? Because I know I’d spend too much valuable writing and editing time on the course planning work, tweaking and testing and twiddling some more. I don’t have to have the outlines ready for reproduction until very late in August so I will keep my hands off, as much as possible, in order to focus on the other work that needs to be done now.
But it’s soooo tempting. Ah well!
Please tell me I’m not the only one who likes some aspect of course-planning and, if you enjoy some part of it, what’s your favourite?