April this year I have lectured for 12 years. I have taught various subjects in undergraduate courses and master courses.
Based on this experience, I would like to share some of my personal guide of lecturing and delivering a course.
Last semester i taught postgraduate degree course on Project and Change Management. One of the thing that the reference stated intrigued me:
If you don’t have a time to plan, then plan to fail
When I just started lecturing, I did not pay enough attention on planning the course. Yes, I have a course outline, but I did not plan in detail the learning outcome for each meeting, the assessment and course work. So, I have to play catch up every time I must give a lecture. Plus, the end of terms marking became so unbearable.
Now, I really forced myself to plan the course beforehand down to a single assessment. Every time a course work is submitted or assessments are conducted I tried to assess them straight away. This way I can provide feedback to the students about their work and I can also spread the load of the marking.
Know the materials
As part of planning the course, I first make sure that I know the materials that I will deliver. Obviously, you will be more comfortable teaching a subject that you know well. But even then you might need to update some of the materials to reflect current trend. I have taught Supply Chain Management and Enterprise Resource Planning Courses for years, but I try to renew the materials each time I will deliver the courses. Then, you might also want to adjust the coursework and assessment.
If you are delivering a course that you are unfamiliar with, the planning will take longer. Last year I must teach Writing and Scientific Method course. It was quite challenging because some of the materials include philosophy of science. I must try real hard to learn about it first, before teaching.
Enlist some Help
During the planning stage, you might also want to consider to enlist the help that you might need. I usually enlist the help of senior students for grading some coursework, as well as assistant for practice and laboratory work.
Delivering the Course
Know your audience
Now that we have the plan, its time to deliver the lecture. In the early days of my teaching, I did not think knowing the audience will be important. But, one time, I must teach a master degree course in front of all male participants and one of them happen to be a senior lecturer in my department. It was quite shocking for me…fortunately, the senior lecturer can sense my nerve and I then just put the cat out of the bag by acknowledging that I am actually quite nervous 🙂
Since then I always make sure that I know the participants before I started. This way, I can mapped them out and can customize the course according to their needs. Delivering the same course to a different audience may require different strategy.
Develop your own style 😉
I tend to make my class quite relax. I also break the pace of the classes with a lot of exercises and discussion. I make sure that I give a lot of examples that the students can relate too. If not, you will end up talking to yourself while the students thinking about their lunch or dinner. But, this one is a personal preference. I know some lecturer who still write on the boards and have their back against the students throughout most of the lecturer.
I also try to remember the students name. Then I can make sure their engagement. You know sometimes you ask a question and nobody answer. If you remember their names, then you can start calling them one by one. This is one of my trick for class involvement. I chose the sleepy one, the quiet one or the joker one. Even if their answer is way off the target, at least it will keep them awake and encourage other to join in.
Prepare for the unknown
Plan is there to guide you. But, circumstances vary a lot. One time, I must stop my class because I discovered some students are forging their signature. Yes, the system in Indonesia still count students attendance. Another time, the class is so sleepy that I must create a pop quiz to wake them up.
Basically, there is no greater torture than you talking your heart out to a sleepy class.
When you finish the entire lecture, spend some time to evaluate the entire course that you just deliver. Which part is the most challenging, which one need more time, which assessment need adjustment. Then, if you have to deliver the course again next year you can start with a good plan already.
Hope this is useful to you.
As Tim Minchin Life Lessons number 6. Be a Teacher