Save Time by Linda Nilson, Ph.D.
Professors are now among the busiest, hardest-working employees in the nation, being pushed from all sides to do more with less. So here are some ways you can cut time corners without doing a disservice to your students or compromising your professional standards.
- Assign online lessons and exercises as homework or use them in class. Look for free web-based tutorials, mastery learning programs, learning objects, databases, and collections of scholarly materials in repositories such as:
- MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) at Merlot.org.
- Wisconsin Online Resource Center
- Project Interactivate (for the sciences and mathematics)
- Information Technology Services, Brock University, Ontario, Canada
- University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Collections of Learning Objects
- Have students write multiple choice questions for upcoming tests as homework or in-class group activities after you teach them what good test items are (e.g., require application, analysis, synthesis, and/or evaluation). Students will be highly motivated to write questions you will want to use on the tests because they know the answers to their own questions. Reserve the right to fine-tune the student submissions.
- Grade minor assignments and short-essay daily quizzes 1/0 or √/0, giving credit for a good faith effort. You’ll be able to grade at a glance.
- Word-process your feedback to students on their papers and projects if it tends to be repetitive. At times your feedback may be one message to the whole class.
- If you must give primarily objective tests, include one essay question that you will read and grade only in borderline cases. Essay questions motivate students to study more deeply.
- Make study/review guides student-group assignments. If you run study/review sessions, do them during class, not on your own time.
- Integrate as many sources of non-instructor feedback as possible into your courses:
- online objective quizzes with immediate feedback on answers or overall score
- interactive computer-based tutorials, mastery learning programs, and learning objects (see #1 above for sources)
- online databases to test hypotheses
- outside experts or other people who will serve to react to student work on email, discussion boards, chats, blogs, wikis, or face-to-face
- student peers (e.g., pairs exchange and discuss their reflection papers on the readings for 10 minutes at the start of class; students justify their self-evaluation to peers
- Accept grading protests only in writing with justifications (in essay format, not as an informal email) within a limited time period (e.g., three days). All those nuisance complaints will go away.
- Reduce time spent on make-up exams by:
- giving one comprehensive make-up at the end of the semester
- counting only best N-1 out of N exams (in make-up cases only)
- moving the weight of the missing exam to the final.
- Use campus resources all you can. If your class needs training in how to use the library or sophisticated web resources, ask your discipline’s librarian to conduct this training during a class period. If your class needs training in specific software or web-page development, ask the campus instructional technology center to conduct this training during a class period. If students come to you with problems beyond your classes, do not make yourself into a one-stop information, training, and problem-solving center. Refer students to the appropriate campus resources:
- Computer problems to the campus help desk
- Psychological, emotional, physical, and relational problems to the campus counseling or health center
- Study/learning problems to the campus academic support center
- Writing problems to the campus writing center
- Research problems to your discipline’s librarian.
Note that some of these time-saving tips generate excellent learning experiences for your students. Remember: The more they do with the course material, and the less you do, the more they learn.
© Linda B Nilson, Ph.D., Director, Office of Teaching Effectiveness
and Innovation, Clemson University, www.clemson.edu/OTEI
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