Prepare for class with an annotated set list

Simon Bates and James Charbonneau, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

We co-teach a large introductory (physics) class, with up to 300 students. The lectures are designed to be fairly active affairs (for the students mainly, also for us) and a typical 50 minute slot can easily comprise between five and ten separate segments, including exposition (mini lectures), peer instruction supported by clicker questions, questions from students, demonstrations/simulations and worksheet problems worked on in small groups of up to four.

Organizing these sessions necessitates advance planning and communication between the two of us as to who is going to lead on what segments. In practice, coordination is required between the three of us, as our large section is also supported by a lecture TA who takes an active role in the class.

We use a 'set list' (misspent youth at too many concerts perhaps?) to choreograph the sequence of lecture activities and share this between the three of us in advance. It turns out this simple document has a number of other practical uses, beyond the obvious, which we detail below.

1) Pre-class planning. It provides a heads-up during preparation, aiding with the scope and pacing of what will be covered in a given class. You can immediately see where there is too much talking (from us) and not enough doing (from the students).

2) Post-class reflection. This same document is a very useful place to make notes after the class about how things worked out in practice. This 2 minute reflection - which need not be anything more fancy than some hand written scribbles on top of the set list - is an invaluable investment for the next time the class rolls around, often a year later. I might remember that lecture 21 was on the Doppler effect, but a year later I'd be hard pressed to remember with any detail what sections students found most difficult, or what demos were most effective (or didn't work!)

3) Passing on the baton. Finally, when it becomes time to hand over the course to a colleague to teach, as teaching duties get rotated, how valuable to inherit not just the syllabus, and perhaps some notes and problem sheets, but also a series of reflections about what happened 'in the field,' as it were.

This is not rocket science and quite possibly many people do exactly this in their courses already. However, we had both been teaching for several years before really coming to appreciate the value of this self-generated feedback gathered shortly after the class happened, and having a convenient way to do it regularly. Creating the set list and generating the post class notes takes about 5 minutes per lecture (not including the content preparation time, of course). You can see an example of just how simple these set lists can be from our course at . We would even advocate spending 5 minutes less polishing your slides or notes ahead of class to make room for this activity, because the return on investment in the long term will probably be significantly greater.