Teaching Tip Tuesday: Incremental Course Design

I recently wrote about establishing boundaries for teaching which has become even more important to me over the past year. One of the boundaries I’ve come to very recently is redesigning courses bit by bit instead of in huge overhauls. Look, I am on a 9 month contract, so it makes no sense that I spend most of my summer filming and editing all new videos, redoing old modules, or reworking every assignment and scaffolding activity. This goes against my nature because a) I am part obliger, and so I feel compelled to do work that serves others first and b) I am constantly reflecting on and tinkering with my courses. I cannot leave well enough alone, and yet…now, I do.

It was a long time coming, but eventually I realized that I cannot do massive redesign and scholarly work and substantial rest in the non-teaching months. It’s just not practical. I should also point out that part of the problem in the past was living that adjunct life and constantly having to teach new preps or old preps in different formats (let’s just say it takes major redesign to teach a project-based 16 week class in 6 weeks). Now, more control = fewer preps = incremental course changes. In a future post I’ll go into detail about how I do a major course redesign, but for now what follows is my process for incremental changes.

Every semester I keep track of things I’m thinking of changing in a googledoc. I usually take the most notes when grading or providing feedback because the students’ work always makes me reconsider what I might add or change the next time around. For instance right now my notes tell me that while my composition students’ source citation maps are largely awesome, it might be a good idea to have them attach a short memo telling me what the map made them realize about their project. I also want to add some more sentence templates for writing Literature Reviews (namely for introducing sources) and at some point I should rethink my genre options for the multimodal assignment. In some cases I pop notes in there that come from conversations with students or their evaluation suggestions. This document is also where I take notes based on ideas I get from professional development that are relevant to teaching. For instance, I’m thinking about adding a Twine option to my Literature of the Diaspora class’s final project options after attending a virtual Twine webinar this year. It’s definitely a “kitchen sink” document that is ever growing and shrinking.

I never would and never could implement all the changes I propose to myself. But I do consult it when I go to set up courses for the next term. I typically consider one big change that would have the most impact and schedule time (no more than a few hours) to work on it. I might make some additional small tweaks from the list as well.

Occasionally, mid-semester usually, I think wistfully of things I’d like to do differently in a future iteration of the class, but I am thankful that I no longer let my course changes balloon to fill all available space. Boundaries, remember?

What do you do to make changes for your courses? Approximately how much time do you spend tweaking courses over the summer? Leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you. If you have questions I can answer in future teaching tips posts, let me know.

Also, I am thinking of launching a biweekly newsletter which would contain a post roundup and Links I’m Loving. Would you subscribe to such a letter? Let me know in the comments!

Stay tuned for more posts this year about teaching, research, and academia. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @litambitions and Instagram: @ecacademic (where I really nerd out about planning). You can also follow this blog (see the email subscribe button on the home page).

One thought on “Teaching Tip Tuesday: Incremental Course Design

  1. Pingback: Make Time for Professional Development | Tawnya Azar

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