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As you prepare for each class, help session, or office hour, do not merely go over the same content that the students are learning. Take a broader view, considering the ideas and assumptions behind the content and anticipating questions that students, who may be seeing this material for the first time, will ask you.
Having a “Plan B” ready to go if your “Plan A” does not go as anticipated will help you maintain confidence and control. For example, sometimes a discussion that you expected to last 15 minutes is over in 5, but still achieves the goals you had in mind. Rather than letting the class go early because you have run out of ideas, you can devote the remaining time to another activity that will help the students learn the material (e.g., summarizing the key ideas of the day, asking the students to list what they see as the key ideas, or presenting a problem or mystery that you will solve during the next class).
You can present more information and ideas in a lecture, for example, if you do not summarize and make connections. However, you may reduce the likelihood that the students will learn and retain all of the material. Because they are not experts in the field, your students will have a difficult time, without your guidance, in identifying the most important points and seeing how these points are connected to the broader themes of the course.
Davis, Barbara Gross. Tools for Teaching. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009.
McKeachie, Wilbert, et al. McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers. 12th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.
© 2009, The Teaching Center, Washington University in St. Louis