Friday, March 6, 2009

Efficient Teaching

As I wait to hear the final word on the latest round of budget cuts, it's become quite clear that no matter what happens, we're all going to have to find ways to teach more efficiently. Some of us will likely be teaching more classes per semester, with more students, but with less support and prep time. How can we manage this increased workload without sacrificing the quality of instruction - or our sanity?

One thing that I'll be doing more of now that time (and money) is tighter is taking advantage of online tools that speed up some of the more mundane teaching tasks. I'm already using WebCT/Blackboard Vista to have students submit written work and return it to them. This practice has helped me to avoid the time it takes to collect and return work in class, and has reduced the amount of paper wasted in the process. I'm likely going to begin administering exams this way as well, which will reduce the time it takes to scan response sheets for multiple choice questions, and will allow me to easily review and grade the answers to other types of questions. Plus, many types of questions can be set to auto-grade!

I also plan to take greater advantage of the teaching resources that are sent to me (for free!) by the publishers of the textbooks I use. I've found that the quality of these supplements has greatly improved over the past few years, and the multimedia packages that are often included have allowed me to not only cut the time it takes to prep material, but also provides an engaging way to present it. Students in my classes seem to love the videos, and it's certainly the only way I can get big name researchers to "guest lecture" in my classes.

I'm also making greater use of the teaching resources that are made available through the major associations in my discipline (for me, it's the APA). Most of these types of associations provide resources for instructors and ways for instructors to share materials with one another. Especially when prepping a new class, I find it helps to see how someone else has covered the same material - it can provide a great starting place for your own lesson.

What do you do to reduce prep time or otherwise make your teaching more efficient? Please share your ideas!

*The image used in this post was created by Hobvias Sudoneighm.

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