There’s got to be a better way to prep for class

There’s got to be a better way to prep for class. First I read the assigned text, taking notes while I’m reading either in the back of the book or, when space runs out, in a little pocket notebook that I carry. Then I read through those notes, highlighting specific passages or commentary that might be potentially relevant for lecture and discussion. Then I re-type some (hopefully more coherent) version of those highlighted notes in a Word file, organizing them in some kind of thematic fashion or outline. (Sometimes, I divide that step up into two steps: first, I retype all the highlighted notes in a Word file; then I organize those notes into outline form in a new Word file.) Once I have some basic sense of the themes I’ll be talking about and the passages I want to focus on, I prepare my lecture (whether it’s a grad seminar or undergrad class, I do a combination of lecture and discussion). All the while I’m doing some secondary reading to help me figure out what is going on in or around the text. There’s got to be a better way to prep for class.


  1. Joanna Bujes October 13, 2014 at 9:58 pm | #

    That seems to be an excellent way to prepare. Creation is iteration.

  2. Ken Tray October 13, 2014 at 10:07 pm | #

    Just be glad an administrator, never schooled in your discipline, isn’t looking for and evaluating merits of your “5-step lesson plan” in anxious fear of whatever high-stakes testing looms around the corner – that, of course, is the plight of the handcuffed public high school teacher in the modern world.

  3. Steve Zielinski October 14, 2014 at 3:06 am | #

    I had a professor in Grad School who would bring 20-30 pages of newly printed text to guide each one of his lectures. They seemed more like finished papers than lecture notes. It was a bit awe-inspiring.

  4. Susan Davis October 14, 2014 at 7:15 am | #

    Why does there have to be a better way? Seems pretty good to me.

  5. Displaced Person October 14, 2014 at 7:33 am | #

    You are a successful academic and I am not sure that I can help you. Is your concern efficiency or organization? Have you tried Evernote? It synches across platforms. I put all my notes and outlines there, then copy and paste want I want for a particular class into Pages or Word using an outline format. B

  6. Consumatopia October 14, 2014 at 7:43 am | #

    It’s simple. Just pay different people to do each of those steps at the same time, so you can teach faster.

  7. Russell Scott Day October 15, 2014 at 1:19 am | #

    I did stand-up for a few years and discovered the mirror and tape recorder were the best tools for that job. You might stand at a music stand, or lectern in front of a large mirror and do your lecturing performance, which by that time you might as well film it as well. Whether or not that might be particularly easier, I can assure you you would become a better presenter.

  8. J. Otto Pohl October 15, 2014 at 5:08 am | #

    That seems like way too much work. I just reread the material. But, lately looking over my university’s requirements for promotion I am thinking I am still putting too much effort into preparation since teaching counts for very little if anything in getting a raise. Better to spend all my time trying to get something published in a big name journal.

    • Ash (@ActivistGal_UK) October 15, 2014 at 11:21 pm | #

      Yes, but what kid of experience are you students going to have if you don’t put effort into prep? And what will they learn?

      I have an LL.B. as well as an LL.M. and I can tell you that I didn’t care a jot how many papers my lecturers had published. I cared about how engaged they were, how well they knew their material (because the better they know it the better they are able to teach) and how passionate they were about their subject.

      If I had lecturers who were just interested in getting a raise, I would have dropped the class. It’s not all about you, ya know.

      Corey’s students sound very lucky.

      • J. Otto Pohl October 16, 2014 at 8:02 am | #

        Dr. Robin also earns a lot more than I do. My salary is only about $1000 a month. So, yes a raise is more important than prep especially since I have a wife and three kids in another country I need to support.

      • Ash October 18, 2014 at 10:16 pm | #

        And what will you do if your students keep dropping your classes because you are dull and a terrible teacher? Who on earth would give a raise to a lecturer from whom no-one/few people want to learn?

        I’m seriously considering about returning to university as a mature student and I have to say, as someone who is going to be paying thousands upon thousands of UK pounds in order to do so (without the assistance of a student loan because I am ineligible for one), I don’t give a damn how many wives/kids my future professors have. If they are crap, they and their superiors will hear about it.

      • Ash October 18, 2014 at 10:17 pm | #

        Oh for an edit function!

      • J. Otto Pohl October 20, 2014 at 8:18 am | #

        I haven’t had students drop my class. But, really if the U of G administration wants me to spend more time on class prep they need to give it more weight (currently virutally none) in promotion. The highest paid faculty here are the ones who teach zero classes.

  9. GSTalbert October 22, 2014 at 6:11 pm | #

    If its for class I do that but if it’s for me I just wing it.

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