Professor Destressor eNews |
Combining productive work lives and balanced personal lives
Our goal is to bring you news, insights, and information
about leading a balanced and productive life while making
In this issue, you'll find:
- Class Preparation in One Hour or Less
- Professor Destressor coaching
- Up and coming workshops
1. Class Preparation in One Hour or Less
How much time do you take prepare for a one hour class? If you
regularly take more than one hour you are spending too much time.
Many professors I meet know they are spending far too much time
preparing for classes. They also know that their classes don’t
live up to their expectations. What they haven’t figured out is
any to approach class preparation that will take minimum time and
produce maximum results of great learning for your students and
great ratings for your classes. This eNews will outline a process
that you can replicate for each class you prepare. My clients who
have implemented this process tell me it works for all academic
fields from the sciences to the humanities and all levels,
undergraduate and graduate classes.
The one consistent error that faculty make is approaching class
prep like they are writing another doctoral dissertation. They
start by doing a major literature search to learn everything
they can about the topic and then proceed to write paragraphs
and paragraphs of content.
While you might need to do that much research if you are unfamiliar
with a topic, most of the material that you will be teaching will
be on topics on which you have already had a whole graduate course.
There are several problems with conducting a major literature
search for class preparation:
- There just isn’t enough time to do that kind of thorough work
two - three times a week for every class you teach.
- The students don’t want or need to know that much about
- You probably know a lot about the topic already and can draw
on that knowledge to decide whether you need more research.
- You can get so bound up in preparing your fabulous notes that
you forget that in spite of your title of professor, you are in the
class to teach – not to profess. Teaching means the students learn
Here is a protocol I have developed that is short (it usually takes
about an hour), good enough (we are not aiming at brilliant),
and effective (my clients have raised their satisfactions with their
classes and their class ratings). It takes four steps:
- Generating ideas;
- Getting organized;
- Pulling it all together;
I have added some suggestions about how to prepare for a class
covering material that you have never studied. Those suggestions
will not take any more than one additional hour.
- Ask yourself, “What do I want my students to get out of this
class?” Limit yourself to 1-3 major ideas, skills, arguments, or
sections of material. Ask yourself the following question and be
brutally honest: “If I were a student taking this class, why would
I care about this topic?”
- Mind map all that you know about the topic for the class.
In case you have never used this great brainstorming technique,
mind mapping was created by a British brain expert, Tony Buzan,
who wanted to help people generate creative ideas fast without
being limited by an outline structure. Take a blank 8 ½ x 11 piece
of paper and write a phrase that represents your topic in the
center of the paper and circle it. Imagine that the circle is
the hub of a wheel which has many spokes. These spokes will
shoot out from the circle at different angles and form the
frame of the wheel.
However, the spokes will not necessarily be symmetrically placed.
Ask yourself, “What are the major ideas about this concept that
the students need to know in this course?” On each spoke print
or write the phrase that belongs to this idea. Stick to about
3-4 major ideas or spokes for an hour’s class.
- Now ask yourself about each major idea, “What are the sub
ideas under each major idea?” As ideas begin to jump out at you,
draw small branches off of the main spokes. Print a phrase
representing each idea on the smaller branches. Continue
generating ideas and their supporting ideas on smaller spokes.
You will find that ideas will flow in uneven directions. You might
be writing on the left side of the paper when something occurs
that belongs on the right. Capture it and go back to what you
were doing. The process will be free flow and unstructured.
Structure each section with the following elements:
- Now you are ready to rearrange your ideas into a structured
class outline with major points supported by minor points. Check
the readings you have assigned and coordinate their major concepts
with your outline sections.
- After your outline looks very full, ask what else belongs in
the class and integrate those ideas into your outline. Throw out
any that don’t add anything seem to fit.
- Decide how much time each section should take.
Distribute the time proportionally to the emphasis you want to give
to each section. For example, a psychology professor teaching
a class on Sensation and Perception for a class in Introduction
to Psychology might plan to spend 20 minutes on vision, 20 minutes
on hearing, 20 minutes on the other senses and 10 minutes on questions.
- A transition from the previous section that introduces the
topic and highlights why it is important; *One learning activity
that has the students do something with the material. A learning
activity might be a pencil/pen exercise, a small group discussion,
a sample quiz, or a lab experiment.
- A summary at the end of each section that the students do by
writing about and shouting out key ideas or by using and electronic
system that records their points.
- Organize any physical items, equipment, lab sheets, or instructions
that will be needed by the students to do the learning activity.
Imagine all of the ways you can present the material that would not
involve you talking. Can you include photos, music, art objects,
web sites, etc.? What methods help students with different learning
Pulling It All Together
- If you like to use PowerPoint, start preparing a slide series
to organize the media you want to include. Don’t flood the slides with
lots of itty bitty words. If it is conventional on your campus to post
class notes for students, prepare a note taking outline for the students
by subtracting your detailed talking points.
- In the case of a department syllabus requiring you to teach
unfamiliar material, here is a quick emergency procedure.
- Consult your graduate school notes to see what material you may have
been exposed to on the topic. Start a mind map of your treasures.
- Glance through alternate textbooks for similar courses that cover
the topic. Add ideas to your mind map.
- Do a quick search of whatever databases are used in your field.
As an alternative, use Google Scholar.
- Look for review articles and chapters by leaders in the field writing
about this topic. Skim these chapters to find the major concepts. Don’t get
bogged down in reading the original studies. You don’t have time for that now.
- Mind map the concepts you wish to include in class and proceed to
follow the above steps.
Depending on your experience and comfort, practice timing your
slides and be sure to allow adequate time for the learning activities.
They always take more time than you plan but when they work, they create
some of the best teaching moments you can imagine.
How will you know if this process is working for you? You can keep
track of your time investment and you can measure your satisfaction
with the actual class with a simple scale (-5 -- +5).
Here are just a few ways to assess if this class was worthwhile to the
students and if any learning took place. Make assessment quick but helpful
to your future planning.
- Give a quick three-question quiz. Have students use clickers to
respond. Record the answers so you can collect the data later. If you
don’t have clickers, have the students hold up different colored pieces
of cardboard to represent their choices of responses. If the class is
small enough, count the answers and record.
- Ask a question about whether they liked the class. Use electronic
clickers or colored cardboard. Give them 3 choices: “liked,”
“didn’t like,” “neutral.”
- Ask yourself if you like preparing for class in one hour or less.
Transfer the time you used to spend doing all that unnecessary research
on your class prep into working on your own publishable research.
- Assign an in-class ungraded one minute paper asking questions such
as: “What did you find most interesting about this topic or lecture?
What do you still have questions about? What would like more information
about?” These papers help you take roll, find out what the students still
need on this topic, and give you the basis for next year’s course revision.
On the next class day, take the first few minutes to address relevant
leftovers before beginning the new topic for the day. Students love to see
that their comments impact your course development.
Peak Performing Professors work effectively, spending only as much time in
class preparation as needed to do a good job.
Relax in the confidence that you have a
great process for class preparation that will make teaching and learning
easy and fun.
2. Professor Destressor Workshops and Coaching
About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a
psychologist and an independent educator. She is
professor of psychology at the College of Notre Dame of
Maryland and offers services as a professional coach,
speaker, author and seminar leader. She loves to coach
professionals who want improvement in:
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal life,
give Susan a call for a complementary half-hour coaching
- work-life balance,
- strategic career management,
- time management,
- increasing productivity.
Susan provides keynotes and seminars to colleges,
universities and professional organizations on the
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching session
because she knows that workshops don’t work… unless the
participants apply their learnings.
- work-life balance and stress management,
- faculty development,
- time management,
- leadership strategies for academics,
- relationships skills at home and at work,
- change strategies.
Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or seminar
needs at Susan@ProfessorDestressor.com or at 410-465-5892.
3. Up and coming workshops
Title: "Peak Performance Practices of Highly
Effective and Engaged Faculty”
Date: May 21-23, 2010
Place: Cambridge, MA: The Teaching Professor Conference Registration, fee,
and directions: see http://www.teachingprofessor.com/conference/
Title: ”Time Management: Why You Don't Need It, Can't Do it
Anyway - and What To Do Instead”
Date: May 30-June 2, 2010
Place: National Institute of Staff and Organizational Development 32nd
Annual International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence, Austin, TX
Registration, fee, and directions: see http://www.nisod.org/conference/
Registration, fee, and directions: see http://www.nisod.org/conference/
I am accepting speaking invitations for faculty work/life balance
and leadership workshops for spring and summer of 2010.
Contact me if your group needs a speaker on any of the topics
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© Copyright 2010 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The
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Susan Robison, PhD.; 9005 Chevrolet Drive;
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Voice: 410-465-5892 or 410-461-1382