When is the right time to review your teaching provision?

I’m just about to enter that most mystical of times for an academic; the quiet time, when relatively little is urgent and the mind can turn to the long list of ‘priorities’ that have been neglected since the last quiet time.

One of the potential priorities (you see how ephemeral the notion of ‘quiet’ can be) is reviewing my teaching provision for the coming year.  Rather than just getting on with it, I’m moved to write this post, since it seems pertinent: just when should we be doing this?

Last week, I was marking a big pile of final exams, a surprisingly stimulating time for me to be thinking about what had (and hadn’t) worked in that module, as well as what questions I might ask next year.  In the end, I decided to focus on getting my marking done, since that was more urgent, but I’ve got some notes to work from.

Likewise, in preparing for a summer school next week (this time is getting less and less quiet by the minute), I found a game that I had run last November and then immediately re-written for next November.  I re-wrote it again for the summer school, then re-wrote it once more for next November, in light of the ideas I’d had in the second re-writing.

I also know that come September, I’ll be asked for module handbooks, so I’ll be spending a block of time specifying what I’m planning to do, although I also know that I often don’t know what I want to do (precisely) until I’m in the classroom on the day.

The difficulty largely seems to be one of integrating our living ideas about what we will/might do with the relatively rigid structures of HE quality assurance.  In the UK, at least, we can’t decide to chop and change assessment at the last minute (or even a long time before that last minute), so we have to take educated guesses about how things will/might work.  One answer might be to build a living module handbook for oneself, containing not only the information for students, but also the lecture notes, OHPs, activities, resources, etc. that are needed to run the module, all in a form that can be instantly updated.

The downside of this is the start-up cost, not least in the conceptualising of what is necessary to include, but it’s something for me to think about during this quiet time.  Doing it might – sadly – become one of those ‘priorities’ I mentioned.

2 Replies to “When is the right time to review your teaching provision?”

  1. This too is something I struggle with. I think it partly depends on the students – I can see a ‘living module’ with built-in adaptivity run in part through blackboard working well with a small MA cohort, for example. My feeling with the undergrads is that even if I decide to change a seminar (even if only slightly) and tell them repeatedly with a two-week lead in, half will still turn up completely unprepared. I would love to be able to work with them and teach what they want me to teach. If I could consistently keep that level of interactivity with the students, it would be fantastic. But I suspect that’s a challenge for another day!

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