Preparing for 2 sections of the same class

More grad students and postdocs want to take the course we teach at UCSD about teaching and learning in higher education, The College Classroom, than we can accommodate. This Quarter, we accepted 40 participants. The class meets for one 90-minute class each week. Because of scheduling and the availability of classrooms, I’m teaching it in 2 sections, one on Tuesday and one on Thursday.

It’s the 3rd time I’ve taught the class so I’m more confident in the content and in how I present it to the class. I don’t get caught in metacognitive loops figuring out how to teach about teaching. As much. The little bit of cognitive load available has allowed me to more closely assess my teaching.

I noticed something around Week 4: I’m not happy with how things go on Tuesdays. I always feel better about my Thursday classes. Why is that, I wondered? Here’s what I think is going on:

I usually prepare the slides for the next class on the previous Friday or Monday. The slides are minor revisions to the ones I used last time so preparing for class is pretty easy. When I’ve made the revisions, I click through the slides to make sure they’re in the right order, any PPT animations are working, remind myself of how the student-centered activities will run, and so on.


And then I teach Tuesday’s class. I’m pretty careful about properly preparing for the activities – we use peer instruction with clickers, portable whiteboards, look at handouts and other things – so those activities usually go well. But there are times when I advance to a new slide and think to myself, what was this for again? That’s bad. And that’s when I’m not happy about how I taught the class.

Advance to Thursday. The class goes much better:

  • I’m better prepared: I know why each slide is in the deck
  • I can better anticipate how the students will react and build that into the lesson because I’ve seen how Tuesday’s students reacted.

How can I do that the first time, too?

The week after I recognized this pattern, I made a deliberate effort to spend some time  on Monday, working my way through that week’s slides. Really reading them and thinking about the content. And guess what? The Tuesday class was great!

Guess what else happened? I was so confident after Tuesday’s class, I breezed into Thursday’s class without reviewing the slides and sucked. In my opinion.

The moral of the story. I need to deliberately and carefully prepare for each and every class. I’m sorry, especially for the Tuesday students, that it took me this long to realize that.

2 Replies to “Preparing for 2 sections of the same class”

  1. I’m teaching two sections of the same lab, on the same day this semester. It’s been a while since I’ve done something like that, and I’ve been having experiences similar to yours. In my case, I think the morning lab typically gets the better experience. With them, I’m not 100% sure where we’ll get with things and we work on the ideas like they’re all new (because they are). In the second lab, I basically know where we’ll end up after the brainstorming stage and I (in hindsight) hurry it along. I know this because the second lab seems to typically last 15 minutes less than the morning lab (they’re each scheduled for 2 hours).

    I really like what you’ve done to try to make a change with your situation. The notion of really being prepared is one I take to heart. One thing that I do is to ask the morning class what I should do differently in the afternoon lab. Sometimes they like to sabotage the other lab (mostly in jest), but sometimes they point out some deadends that didn’t seem useful. What would happen if you were to ask your first group the same question?

    #NaBloCoMo !

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