The end of the semester always feels weird to me. As classes wind down and I find myself with more open blocks in my calendar, it usually takes me a while to transition from the stop-and-go pace of class planning to the long haul of projects that I have lined up for the summer. It can be all too easy to set the teaching aspect of my job largely aside for a few months, but I know I’ll be better off in the fall if I use the slower pace of summer to work on my teaching practice. I searched online to see if I could find any good ideas for ways to systematically think about teaching during the summer, and found a post on the ProfHacker blog focused on “looking backward and forward” at the end of the academic semester. While some of the tips are specific to faculty (let’s all be glad we don’t have grades to submit), many of the ideas translate to our work. Here are a few things I plan to do this summer to keep my mind on my teaching and my teaching on my mind.
Review & renew online teaching materials
I often forget that the students I teach are likely to spend more time with the course research guides I create than they spend with me in the classroom. When I’m in a hurry to plan classes, the course guide sometimes becomes an afterthought. Summer is a great time to take an in-depth look at SubjectsPlus guides and other online materials we use and refresh them where needed. I plan to spend some time creating at least one brand new guide for a class that I know I’ll work with in the fall so that when things do get busy, I’ll have a great template to use for other guides. In TLS, we usually review and update our “how-to guides” during the summer. If you see something that needs our attention, let us know.
Revisit conference notes/bookmarks/inspiration
I’m sure we’ve all experienced it. You go to a conference and see tons of great ideas, but jump right back into the fray before you can put anything into action. I’m going to set aside some time this summer to go through my notes from ACRL and find things I want to try in the fall. Since I’ll be revamping a lot of my lesson plans anyway to prepare for our new Learning Labs, this is a great opportunity to take a closer look at my teaching practices overall to make sure they don’t get too stale. I also have a list of articles and links I bookmarked throughout the semester that I didn’t have time to fully investigate. Many of these are related to using technology in the classroom, so I’ll use the summer to make a short list of things I want to try out when the Learning Labs are ready.
Look at data & feedback
I can’t seem to write one of these posts without sneaking in something about assessment. I usually spend a lot of time in the summer analyzing data, so assessment is already on my mind. I think that summer is the perfect time to look for trends in how are students might be changing and what’s working or not working in our teaching. Something I’ve been thinking about lately (and that seems to be reflected in our UGS post-test results) is how difficult it is to fully convey the keyword brainstorming process, especially when students are at the beginning stages of refining their topic selection. I’m not sure how to approach this issue differently (let me know if you have ideas) but the data I’ve been looking at reminded me to think about it. If you have any feedback or data to review, now is the time to do it. If not, personal reflection can help you pinpoint specific areas to focus on.
Before we know it, summer will be over and we’ll be back to the grind. Do you have any tips for using this time to improve your teaching? Please comment if you do.