Friday, 15 February 2019

Process to create teaching materials

Last year I mentored a new lecturer. This caused me to consider my own thinking and structures in a way that I haven't before. Even though I reflect regularly, it is only - as they say - when we come to try to teach someone else that we realise exactly what it is that we do!

As a result, I have realised that when creating and curating new material to teach to students, I have a four step process which I follow:
  1. Define, scope and cite. Firstly I get definitions for all the things I am attempting to cover, and check it fits with (a) the remainder of the course, (b) the level of the delivery, and (c) the course learning outcomes. I turn to business or management encyclopedias, specialist area dictionaries and the most reputable of texts. I keep looking until I have a feel for the key players in the area. I read more than I need so I understand the landscape. I sift, compile, discard, rationalise and simplify until I have appropriate and memorable definitions, clear links to relevant theory, and a list of source materials in APA format.
  2. Go through the components. Secondly I decide the level of detail I will teach to, which is both a forward and a backwards process. I rarely stop with a top level definition only: I will usually break down the components of the theory like a recipe for students, so, like Lego, they can take it apart and put it back together again either the same way, or to customise it. As I go I create PowerPoints to cover the new material. I look at how much time I need to fill - a two hour lecture will require roughly 15 slides and five or six activities plus a break. I chunk down the theory so that each element is no more than 15 minutes, and preferably 10 minutes. 
  3. Activities and application. Thirdly, I always apply theory in some way, so I look for suitable activities. These might be a case study; a video; an example; a reading; a discussion; a debate; a self-evaluation quiz; a physical activity; a research activity; or a group activity. I find that if theory is linked immediately to application, the learning is much more sticky for students. And I want recall to be easy, so that when they step out into the world of work, they don't have to rush off to re-read a theory in their old textbook in the midst of a union negotiation.
  4. Review. I know enough now to prepare slides and be fairly sure I will have enough time simply through instinct, but I do review what I have put together so I have (i) sufficient teaching notes for each section if I were not to deliver it, (ii) check that everything is referenced appropriately, (iii) do a run through with online exercises and have an offline back up wherever possible, (iv) check that it meets the learning outcomes. Also, after I have delivered material for the first time, then I reflect later that day on what could be improved, and make notes on the changes so that they are reviewed the next time I cover that section.
The things we don't know that we know :-)


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