Confused at a higher level

The view from Carleton College's physics department

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Old prep, new prep, I prep, you prep

Posted by Melissa on December 17, 2012

I’m staring down the start of another term with a new class prep. I’m excited about the course I’ll be teaching, a course on materials science, energy, and the environment that counts both for the environmental studies major and the physics major . But I’m less excited about the massive amounts of time that I sink into any course that is a new prep for me. The situation got me thinking about how many times I would want to teach a course before giving it a rest.

For standard courses where I am the instructor of record, I’ve not taught any course more than three times in the 22 trimesters I’ve been at Carleton. Labs are a different story; I’ve repeated those more often. A couple of my colleagues in other departments were talking about repeating a single class six or seven times in five years. To me, that sounds like a blessing (more opportunities to refine the course, possibility for reduced prep time) and perhaps a bit of a curse (getting tired of the course, being concerned about falling into a rut).

So here’s my question — in an ideal world, how many times would you want to repeat teaching a course over a certain period of time? When would you want a break from a course? Does it matter if the course is offered every term, every year, or every other year? I loved my schedule when I taught one of my courses annually for three years in a row, but recently, I haven’t had much consistency in my teaching schedule.

My toddler offered me some course prep advice tonight: “Your students should do more art projects” When I asked if she had suggestions, she said, “Handprints with paint.” If I run out of energy for course prep soon, I may be tempted to take her advice.


One Response to “Old prep, new prep, I prep, you prep”

  1. Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist said

    We have a nominal policy of “teach 3 times and then rotate” in our department. Some courses are taught every year, some every other year. Most of us like to teach most of the courses, so that keeps us happy. And, of course, there are a couple of courses we like to avoid (mostly seminar since inviting all the speakers is a hassle) and this model works for that, too. I’ve taught Modern Physics Lab something like 12 times in a row, and I’d love a break on that, though I would say I’ve made modest changes/improvements in that course almost every time.

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