practical phd

a transparent source for all things PhD

Teaching new courses requires a significant time investment.  Many of you already know!  I did a new course preparation for spring semester this school year, so I thought I would share some of the ways that I recycled and reused to save some time in the process in the hopes that it sparks some ideas for you.

First, I copied another course’s format.  I teach a course on segregation that is organized roughly as follows:

  • Background history 
  • Relevant contemporary factors
  • Implications for individuals’ life outcomes
  • Potential solutions to the problem

I used that as a template for my course on how city neighborhoods change with the exception of ending with opinions about gentrification.  Having a generic set up helped me organize my thoughts, which initially were quite scattered.

Second, I recycled my assignments.  In my segregation course, I use a series of methods assignments that students have to incorporate into a final paper.  I like the assignments because they give students practice with some practical skills like working with Excel, but are also interesting to read, which makes grading easier.  Lucky for me, the assignments also fit for my how city neighborhoods change course with a slight tweak in the instructions and focus of the prompts.

Third, I reused any and all readings that I could from other syllabi.  I was actually able to pull from my segregation course and my race/ethnicity course for this.  This let me integrate readings that I already knew worked for my undergraduate students and met the needs I had for a topic area.  To be fair, reused readings only appear in about 6 weeks of my class, but that meant I had little to no readings to find for those 6 out of 14 weeks.

Finally, because I reused readings from other courses, I was able to reuse slides that I had already developed and refined.  That helped tremendously in week-to-week lecture preparation.  Again, I didn’t have reused readings every week, but on the weeks that I did, it saved a lot of time.

The point is you don’t have to recreate the wheel for every new course prep.  You can reuse and recycle elements from classes you’ve taught before.  If you’re new to teaching or have a course prep that is a stretch from your prior course topics, you can also borrow elements from other instructors’ syllabi.  Starting from something makes the hard lift of new course preparations a little bit more manageable.

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