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Getting Ready for Fall: Teaching Tips

July 2, 2010 Leave a comment

By Erika Engstrom, University of Nevada-Las Vegas
Religion and Media Interest Group Teaching Chair

Another semester finally over, and the school year ends for many of us. However, even as the summer months provide a respite from the day-to-day lecture grind, it always seems as if it flies by much too quickly. Even though the fall semester may seem months away, the end of the spring serves as an ideal time to reassess one’s classroom performance and prepare for the inevitable rush to get syllabi ready in time for the first day of fall classes. End-of-semester housekeeping may seem a chore when considering the time dedicated to grading final exams and papers and submitting grades. However, it can be rather therapeutic, in that it can be a way of winding down prior to summer research projects.

For example, I like to go through all my paperwork after grades are done as a way to clean out my files and in/out boxes I use to store notes, articles, and other items I put in the “later” category as the semester progressed. I also like to rename all my PowerPoint files and electronic files so that I can find them later as I plan for the next semester. Believe it or not, using the same file terms helps to organize files so that one is not hunting around for past-semester study lists and assignments. It also allows for easy access for preparing annual evaluation portfolios.  Another tip from RMIG head Paola Banchero is to keep notes about what works and what doesn’t work for a class. As one of her first tasks for the summer, she prepares syllabi for the upcoming semester.

Though one may not be in the office or on campus during the summer months, course preparation need not take a hiatus. Additional time also allows for browsing those journals you’ve been saving up to review. Why not carry a journal or two on the plane while you’re traveling to the AEJ convention? Other publications also can provide teaching ideas. For example, I like to skim my husband’s copies of Science, which often includes short news items about recent research in my area, often leading me to track down articles that I include in my course readings. (Indeed, I’ve seen several articles in Science on archeological digs which have uncovered religious artifacts and new findings regarding the authenticity of religious relics.)

As part of RMIG’s teaching goals for the next year, we invite members to submit their course syllabi to serve as examples for others. Components of syllabi that others may find useful include: course objectives, policies, and useful readings, including academic and popular articles. For example, do you also include an encouraging message to students that outlines tips for success? Or do you include a biographical sketch that gives students an idea about your area of expertise or some other aspect about your academic life that can serve as an introduction prior to the first day of class (such as for syllabi posted on course websites such as on Blackboard or WebCampus)? Please send your syllabi in Word to erika.engstrom@unlv.edu. Thanks—and have a productive summer!

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Categories: Newsletter, Teaching