Coming to Class Unprepared

It’s no secret that faculty sometimes come to class unprepared and have to “wing it.” By unprepared I don’t mean having nothing prepared to say, though I did that a few times, unfortunately, as a new teacher. What I mean by unprepared is not having taken the time to review one’s lecture notes or whatever preparation you would do, prior to walking to class.

As I was reading Angela and Federico’s latest posting this weekend, I was struck by something that was reinforced in a meeting I had today with my co-teachers, Martha and Jerry: when you’re collaborating with someone else to teach, you are a lot less likely to class come to class unprepared. If you are truly collaborating, you will need to communicate about what each of you is planning to accomplish in a class session. In addition, you may feel responsible to your co-teacher. (Here’s a more jaded view: while you may think that you’ll be able to fool your students when you’re not propared (or fool yourself that your students won’t know the difference), you know it’s more likely that you won’t be able to fool your colleague.) Perhaps this is one more benefit to teaching in a non-traditional way.

One of the topics I’ve blogged about in the past is the purpose of class sessions in a course. In the last year I’ve found that what I do in my class sessions more and more is dynamically determined, rather than following a strict script. While I have a general outline of what I plan to cover (including possibly the old lecture notes), exactly which points I talk about depends on how students react to what I say, what questions they raise, etc. In other words, instead of a linear outline of “the material” think of a branching structure, where I can take the class in different directions.  It’s a lot harder to prepare for such a class session than for a straight lecture. Perhaps harder isn’t the right adverb, but it certainly takes more forethought and intent. You can’t do it successfully without being prepared.

Maybe there are more benefits to U2.0 than we imagined; certainly it takes a different skill set.

This entry was posted in Teaching and Learning, The Future of Higher Education, University 2.0. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Coming to Class Unprepared

  1. Pingback: Pedablogy: Musings on the Art & Craft of Teaching » Blog Archive » (Real) Teaching is Hard

  2. Angela says:

    Very interesting post, Steve. One thing I’ve come to appreciate in doing this collaborative teaching experience is that all preparation is not the same. I’m not just talking about quality of preparation–but, rather, kind, method, intensity, process. But, I really like your suggestion that preparation can mean–and perhaps should mean–establishing a template for further discovery. Not just for one’s students, but for one’s self, too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *