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At this harried point at the end of the semester, you may not be looking ahead to the next time you will teach.  But taking a little time now to can help improve your future teaching and speed up your course preparation down the road. Even if you think you may never teach a particular course again, you may find yourself teaching the same course or topic two or ten years in the future.  Take a little time before the break to work through the following checklist for each course you taught this semester:

  1. Reflect on the course:  what worked well and what could use improvement? While it’s best to get in the habit of taking five minutes after every class to make notes on the lesson plan, it’s not too late!  Especially at this point in the semester when students are reviewing and you are revising the final exam questions, you probably have a strong sense of which lessons, assignments, activities, and policies promoted student learning effectively and which were less successful.
  2. Make notes on changes you know you should make for next time, big or small. Did you find a new resource or textbook you would like to use?  Did you schedule the right amount of time for assignments and topics throughout the semester?  Did you use a current event in your teaching that will be out-of-date when you offer the class again?
  3. Remember what it is like to be a non-expert so that you can communicate more effectively with your students. Especially if you taught a course outside your comfort zone this semester, take a few minutes to jot down notes on what confused you most, which explanations made the most sense to you, and what misconceptions you brought to the topic.  Even if you taught very familiar material, take a minute to note the topics your students found most difficult and the modes of explanation that best clarified their understanding.
  4. Request permission from students to use anonymized examples of their work in your future classes. Non-majors and first-year students especially appreciate having examples of the type of work you expect from your students. Most instructors email students individually to receive permission to use a particular assignment or portion of an assignment.
  5. Update your teaching portfolio and CV while everything is fresh in your mind. Remember that you should annotate materials in your teaching portfolio to explain their use in the course, connection to your learning goals, and your rationale in their design.
  6. Back up your documents to an external server or separate drive. All course materials, even the small ones, may be helpful to you or a colleague in the future.  Take a few seconds now to save yourself much more frustration in the future.
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