Making the Most of the Rest of the Semester
We’re always amazed by how quickly the weeks pass after spring break. One moment we’re getting back into the swing of things, and the next, it’s already time for finals, goodbyes, graduations, and summer. Before the semester gets away from us, this is a good moment to reassess: How much time do we have left in our courses? Given the reality of our and students’ constraints at this point in the semester, what is most important to prioritize and to finish? If we look back at the goals, we can remind ourselves what we really hope students will take away from the experience, and we can invite students to reflect on the priorities as well.
In many ways, class time is our most precious resource. Students can learn in or out of class, but in class, they have the benefit of instructor and peer presence. To make the most of class time for the rest of the semester, we can consider what is most important for students to do in class, and what they can do on their own (or in a study group) outside of class. For example, students may be able to absorb an overview of a topic in the form of a presentation or video on their own, but applying concepts introduced in the video to complex, real-world cases makes more sense to do together in class, through a structured activity. Similarly, it might make sense to allow students to attempt to solve a set of problems for homework, but to discuss why they attempted to solve the problem in the way that they did, what worked or didn’t and why, and make connections between procedures and concepts, it would be better for an instructor to guide students through that reasoning and discussion in class.
In general, it’s a good idea for students to work through the most challenging concepts, problems, theories, or cases when they are in the same (physical or virtual) space as their instructor and peers. This way, as they develop their skills through practice, they can get feedback, clarification, and encouragement from peers and from us. For example, if students are doing a final project for which they will need to analyze or evaluate examples, it makes sense to have them practice doing that higher-order thinking in class. Then, they can apply what they’ve learned through practice to their own work. If your course has a final exam on which they’ll need to solve problems, it makes sense to have students practice solving problems in class—maybe in pairs or small groups—that represent the variety of problem types that will appear on the exam, but that are actually a little more challenging than those that will be on the exam. After students get lots of practice doing the most complex work with support, they will more likely have developed both the skills and the confidence to do well on the exam, on which they most likely work individually under time constraints for a significant portion of their grade.
When thinking about what kinds of work students should do in class and out of class, some colleagues like to use a castletop template to sketch out their plans. Others use a spreadsheet with columns for the class session date, the topic, what students will do in class, and what they’ll do out of class/for homework. However you plan, if you want students to be more active in class, but you’re not accustomed to facilitating activities, we are eager to support you.
For detailed advice on planning structured activities, you can explore our tips on designing and facilitating in-class activities, and on practice and feedback. For some new ideas for activity types, you might enjoy exploring this resource from Brown or this one from Oxford, which is focused on classroom activities for large courses. Of course, we are also happy to work with you on developing plans to make the most of class time! Please email us for a consultation at email@example.com. We look forward to working with you!
Summer 2023 Course Design Institute
June 12th-15th | 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. | In person, lunch provided | Click to apply
CAT’s Course Design Seminar provides faculty with the time, structure, and support they need to craft transformative and inclusive learning experiences that reach and inspire their students. Course design and planning need not be lonely work; they are best accomplished in a community of peers who are similarly engaged. The seminar is a four-day series of hands-on workshops, during which faculty will hone their goals for student learning, plan effective use of class time, and work on sequencing and scaffolding coursework, as well as gathering valid evidence of learning. They will also work on strategies for fostering welcoming classroom climates and cultivating student motivation. Participants will gain:
- Structured support to (re)design a course for maximum learning
- Assistance and feedback on course design, including learning goals; assignment and exam design; effective use of class time; class activities; active-learning strategies, etc.
- Expertise in learner-centered teaching and backward design
- Strategies for motivating students
- Collegial community and peer feedback
Each faculty participant will receive a stipend of $2,000 upon successful completion of the course redesign. Seats are limited, and full-time faculty of all ranks are eligible. Priority will be given to courses that reach large numbers of students, and to applications from teams of faculty, either teaching multiple sections of the same course or courses that students take in a series. Participants must be able to attend all sessions of the workshop, complete pre-work, and submit final revised plans by August 1st.
You can apply through the link above. Please include a brief letter of support from your chair. The deadline to apply is Sunday, April 9th, and decisions will be made by Wednesday, April 12th. If you have questions about attending the seminar, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to working with you!