As I prepare for the start of the Spring semester, I have become acutely aware that I have been overly optimistic in previous semesters about what I can cover in a class-period and/or a semester. So, this semester, I have decided to ground myself in realism. What can REALLY be covered in a semester-long class?
That picture comes from this post on Learning Objectives and their importance. One of the colleges I work at just recently began a focus on learning objectives. At first, I was annoyed by the whole thing. “Of course I know what my students are supposed to learn in my classes. And that is what I’m teaching them!” is what I thought. But, as we went through to identify assessments for each of the learning objectives, I began to understand that although I may be sure in my head that I am teaching them those things, I have no real way of measuring the effectiveness of that teaching. It was very eye opening, to say the least.
So, I am concentrating on those learning objectives when planning my semester this time around. I always have an overly optimistic idea of what I can get through in a semester and I end up rushing some things and letting go of others completely, and that isn’t always something that is part of a serious and compelling plan. But, this semester, I am approaching with realism instead. I am making some decisions about what to cut out BEFORE the semester begins and I am making those decisions based on the learning objectives. I am going through the text to see which chapters are tightly connected to the learning objectives or even which parts of chapters and those will be my focus. Everything else is going to be purged. I am thinking of it as decluttering my classes!
I am hoping that this helps (1) keep me on the planned schedule better (2) allows me to spend more time on more meaningful learning and (3) gives me a clear idea of HOW to get students where I want them to be by the end of the semester.
It is a whole new world to this “old” teacher! Again, it isn’t that I think I was NOT teaching the students according to the objectives, but now I will have a much better idea of how well they are absorbing that material. And, I should have time to review when needed, rather than just rushing on to the next thing immediately.