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Class Preparation Time - Can You Overdo It?

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

Message Number: 


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In Message # 2, I mentioned Robert Boice's "Quick Starters," faculty who had excelled in teaching, research, publishing, and networking. One of Boice's more controversial conclusions was that quick starters were beginning faculty who had learned to pu t a limit on their class preparation time, usually no more than 1.5 hours for every class hour, by the end of the third semester of teaching. He said that too many beginning faculty: 

"Over-prepared lectures and presented too much material too rapidly. taught defensively so as to avoid public criticism, and had few plans to improve teaching beyond improving the content of their lectures." [1] 

How does this comment sit with you? Are you willing to go into class less than fully prepared? Is there a point where the 80/20 rule applies and the small added benefit is just not worth the effort? Remember you cannot do everything, please everyone , be available to everyone, and at the same time be the ideal teacher and scholar. 

Alison Bridger, professor of meteorology at San Jose State University put it this way: 

"You have to consider all the ways, big and small, that you spend your time. Student advising consumes a lot of time, as does class preparation, all of which takes time away from your research. While I always strive to give my best effort to teaching, it is possible to overdue writing up lecture notes. I was a perfectionist in my teaching, but if you let it, class preparation can take all of your time." 

Kim Needy, assistant professor of industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, backs up Bridger by saying: "Teaching preparation can be more like a gas than a liquid or a solid. In other words it will fill all the space available to it if you let it. You can always add a case study, always improve an overhead, and always revise a handout. At some point you have to put a box around it and say, 'enough'." 

What are some of the ways you have found to reduce lecture preparation time and still do the quality job you want to do? How about leveraging with your research, how about sharing material with other faculty? Please share your thoughts and suggestion s with us. 

Looking forward to hearing from you. 

Rick Reis 

(1) R. Boice, The New Faculty Member: Supporting and Fostering Professional Development, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1992.\