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How to Prepare To Teach a Course

Teaching a course

Teaching a course at any level requires knowledge, authority and the ability to anticipate and answer questions. Your students will expect to learn things they did not know, and to attain the tools necessary to continue learning in whatever subject you are teaching. You may be teaching in front of a few students, in a large lecture hall or online. Whatever the case, you should prepare to teach a course by determining its learning objectives, developing a syllabus, and making lesson plans.

Developing a Syllabus

Establish your goals for the course.

Having clear objectives for your course will help you know exactly what to teach, and will help your students realize what they should be learning. Objectives are meant to give you a way of measuring whether you and the course have achieved what you need to. Think about:

Who are your students?
What curricular needs do they and/or your department have?
What would you like students to have achieved by the end of the course?

Include a statement of learning goals on your syllabus.

Write out a set of learning goals for your course (using action verbs) and include it as one of the first sections on your syllabus. You don't need to have a great number of learning goals for your course; including a few well-thought out goals is best. You don't have to only teach what is included in your stated goals, but they will serve as a guide. Some examples of learning goals used in actual courses are:

Demonstrate the ability to read, evaluate and interpret general economic information.
Apply research methods in psychology, including design, data analysis, and interpretation to a research project.
Communicate effectively in an oral presentation.
Formulate a well-organized argument supported by evidence.
Identify major figures and ideas in peace movements from around the world.

Think about how you will assess if students are learning.

Once you have developed a set of learning goals, you will want to make sure your students are meeting them. Typically, you will determine this based on how students perform on the assignments you provide, but there are other options as well. You will want to write a more or less detailed description of assignments/assessment tools to include in your syllabus. Some typical ways of assessing learning include:

Quizzes and exams
Learning activities (fill in the blank, practice equations, etc.)
Presentations
Writing assignments (essays, research papers, etc.)
Portfolios that gather and introduce a collection of finished work
Self-reflective exercises (ask students to describe what they have learned from the course)

Develop rubrics for your assignments.

In order to determine how a student is performing on any given assignment, you'll want a rubric. Rubrics help you measure student achievement by comparing it to certain levels that you've set. Most rubrics operate on a points or letter-grade scale, such as A/B/C etc. A rubric has four components:

What is a student assignment rubric? A rubric for assessment, usually in the form of a grid, is a scoring tool used to interpret and grade students' work against criteria and standards. A rubric divides the assigned work into component parts and provides clear descriptions of the work associated with each component, at varying levels of mastery. Rubrics are sometimes called "criteria sheets", "grading schemes", or "scoring guides".

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