What Does It Take to Teach College? Time Management

Yeah, yeah. Teaching is difficult. Not exactly a news flash, right? But lately I’ve found myself in the position of needing to break down teaching and think about it a bit more critically. What does it take to teach? And, more specifically, what does it take to teach at the college level?

It takes a number of skills to teach, obviously. Today I want to focus on time management. I actually have a list of thoughts on what it takes to teach college. Most of these ideas  I managed to jot down while I was teaching class (because these thoughts never appear at a convenient time. they always appear when I am in the act of actually teaching and really don’t need to stop what I am doing to jot them down).

Time Management

Time management is critical to teaching well – probably regardless of who and where you teach. In thinking about my classes, I realized that I am pretty good about breaking down how much time each component will take. I said pretty good. Not perfect. And the first time I teach a class I am relatively decent at time management but can under/over estimate how long something takes the first time out the door.

time managementTake my class, The Politics of Reading, as an example. The class starts at 12:30 and runs until 3:15. In our last class I laid everything out as follows:

  • Completion of Entrance Slips
  • Review questions posted on the Question of the Day sheet
    • Both these tasks comprise the first five minutes of class

These first two tasks are supposed to be fluid in nature. When students enter, I have a question posted on our class page via Today’s Meet. They sign in and answer. This also serves as a way to check attendance and being on time. I give everyone +1 point for answering. When they are done with the entrance slip, they should take a look at what is listed on the question of the day sheet. Everyone also gets +1 point for putting a question on the question of the day sheet.

  • Discussion of Question of the Day
    • Lasts 25-30 minutes (can vary depending on session but never goes beyond 30 minutes)

I try to vary how students engage in QOD each week. I want them to be comfortable with the routine of doing the entrance slip and moving into QOD, but I don’t want QOD to get stale. So each week I mix the directions up.

For the most recent class, I grouped students. Normally, I let them group themselves, but we all know that this means students sit with the same people week to week (for the most part). And hey, I would too. It’s comfortable on several levels. As a student, we’ve all been there. So I grouped them and asked them to identify one question from the day’s spreadsheet that no one in the group wrote. This meant they got to interpret the question however they so pleased. Additionally, once a question was claimed no other group could claim it. Up until now, I hadn’t cared if multiple groups discussed the same question.

They had five minutes to select a question and discuss it. I say five minutes, but I do try to be a bit flexible here. I listen in and pay small groupsattention to see if more or less time is warranted. I try to hit the sweet spot of having just enough time to get into the discussion but without it totally petering out. Sometimes I actually accomplish this.

Then, I regrouped students in a basic jigsaw kind of manner. I reconfigured the groups so one person from the first discussion was represented and could share the question/discussion they had during the first five minutes. Each person had 2-3 minutes to share and discuss what they talked about in their initial group. This probably lasted eight minutes.

From this, I asked each group to put forth one idea/question/interesting thing we should know based on their cross-question discussion. Each group had to report out and, in some cases, we had mini-discussions about what was said. This went about 10 minutes.

  • Explore Project Sharing & Feedback
    • Could take up to 40 minutes

I used explore projects last semester with my masters class and thoroughly loved them. I am not convinced they work in this class as of yet. I’m thinking about dumping them when I teach this class again in favor of a current events style project that I think will fit the class better, but that’s for a later discussion. The sharing/feedback portion of the class is where students sign up to share their work and get feedback. In this class, we had four presenters. Presentations are informal. You can simply just talk to the class off the top of your head. Each student gets up to five minutes to share her/his work and then up to five minutes of feedback.

I put this in the middle of class because I wasn’t sure how much time it would take. It could have taken 40 minutes, and it could have taken 20. It depended on how much the students talked and how much feedback was provided. In the end, I think it did go to about 40 minutes.

I would like to say that I think having time for structured feedback is very helpful. If I do this project again in my masters class I am going to work that in.

  • Lecture
    • 60 minutes (give or take)

lectureI do think having a lecture in each class is important. I do not think it needs to be 60 minutes. However, we had an unusual amount of material that I wanted to review. I put in stopping points for small, structured discussions (talk to a partner and whole class). I also included short videos along the way ranging from one to five minutes to help expand on the concepts being discussed.  So of this 60 minutes, about 15-20 was watching videos and another 15 was discussion of some sort. That takes it down to a 30-35 minute lecture, and I’m ok with that.

  • Wrap-Up/Exit Slip
    • 5 minutes

At the very end of class I highlight what we will be doing next week and then have students complete their exit slip. It’s just like the entrance slip. I write a different question on Today’s Meet, they answer it, and then they are free to go. Everyone gets a +1 for answering the exit slip question.

And by and large, that’s how this class flows.

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5 thoughts on “What Does It Take to Teach College? Time Management

  1. fellowtraveler8 August 16, 2015 / 7:17 pm

    I know your comments pertain to time management in a college classroom, but I found your insights incredibly relevant to my own context as a high school teacher as well. I don’t do an Explore Project exactly, but my students are always working on a PBL product at any given time, and I do give large chunks of time for that at least once every class period.

    One of my goals is also working on giving structured feedback, as you mentioned. I think that one-on-one time to discuss projects has been very meaningful and helpful for students, but I was wondering if you had any specific strategies for structured feedback you plan to use this year and that you could share. I feel like I am providing some strong supports but not systematic or efficient ones.

  2. leighahall August 17, 2015 / 1:49 pm

    This year, in the Explorations class, I am going to use class time for students to share. Before, we had work time. There will be work time initially so people can get their projects going, but from that point on we will use that space for feedback and discussion. I’m not sure what that will look like yet, but I’ll likely write about it here.

    I’ve done structured feedback with high school students when I taught English one summer. They were working on essays. We could take 2-3 students each time we did this. The student asking for feedback would put the document on the screen and then highlight what kind of help they needed. Then the remaining students started discussing the text. Look here: https://leighahall.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/we-geek-out-on-writing/

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