One academic sin I’m hoping to avoid, this term, is over-preparation. I’m finally back to not having any new course preps this term (not that last term’s early medieval seminar was a burden, but. . .) and I need to take advantage of that fact. Yes, I need to revise a few lecture plans and work up a list of key terms for the majors’ class so that they can consult that as they prepare for the newly added midterm test as well as looking ahead towards the final.

The trick is not to spend so much time devising the perfect new lecture plan and the ultimate list of “terms to know” that I bleed over into my research time. So I’m setting myself some time limits: ten minutes a week to ensure that all material for the next week’s class are appropriate and waiting in their respective course folder: one hour a week for needed revisions to any one of those classes. I really don’t see more need than that since I’m quite happy, overall, with the three courses I’m teaching this term. What will be hard is limiting myself to that hour and a half each week of revision when I know I could endlessly tweak and perfect each class. After all, didn’t Matt Groening teach us, in grad school, that you could avoid reality finishing your thesis by reading one more book?

But where’s the value to myself, my students, colleagues and university in bumping up the course experience a few percentage points if I sacrifice my research and writing (it’s always research and writing that gets sacrificed, if you notice) in the bargain? I’m finally learning that lesson.

4 Responses to “Over-preparation”

  1. Lisa Says:

    Me, too! I am following your lead! Unfortunately, I have quite a bit of reading to catch up on for my seminar class, but I am counting that as research because the class is related to my field.

  2. anbruch Says:

    I like your approach! One other thing I do to protect research time is to schedule at least part of it just like I do class, office hours, etc. Then when someone wants to hold a meeting I simply treat the research time as time that I’m unavailable. When I have it in my schedule that way, I have a much easier time saying, “no, I’m already booked for that time.” In any case, I hope your schedule works for you!


  3. Another Damned Medievalist Says:

    I am now planning to do this …

  4. Ancarett’s Abode » Blog Archive » Teaching Carnival V Says:

    […] Course Design and Preparation: Given that January marks the start of a new term for many scholars, it’s not surprising we see a lot of discussion about course creation and revision. Dean Dad starts things off with a discussion about hybrid (online/in-person) courses. Over at m2h we track a course proposal to conclusion. Raining Cats and Dogma explores the possibilities of a new course theme. Profgrrrrl chronicles how cut-offs can make us crazy with too low and too high course enrollments. And I try to avoid the temptation of over-preparation. […]