Skip to content

Course planning.

2009 July 18
by Hélène Martin

I’ve been suffering from a form of writer’s block, I suppose.  I’ll be teaching three computer science courses I’ve never taught before starting September 9th and I’ve found it incredibly difficult to figure out how to prepare myself for the challenge.  It recently struck me that I’m going to be spending 5 hours of each day in class with students so my usual algorithm of 2-3 hours of prep time per hour of class time is just not going to cut it unless I make significant headway over the summer.

Here’s my problem, though: I like to heavily adapt what I’m teaching to my students’ strengths, interests and schedules.  Even for the short and sweet summer program I am teaching for (10 hours of class time total), I felt so smart coming in with a schedule ready to go but after giving the students a survey and seeing what some of the other teachers were doing, I threw the whole thing out the window.  The time I spent planning prior to the course starting was definitely valuable because it at least gave me a framework to operate in and some ready-to-go materials.  But I’m still spending a lot of time reworking my plans as I go.

This leaves me with a number of questions.  How do the majority of teachers use their summers?  Should teachers be given more planning time interspersed with their courses?  Is effective advance planning just a skill that takes time to develop?  Is the trick to plan a lot of modular pieces and resources which can be plugged in as the situation demands it?

What I’ve been trying to do is at least answer some of the really big questions framing the courses.  I’m a big fan of “backwards design” and have been using a lot of ideas from Understanding by Design.  So I guess really I’m not answering big questions but rather trying to tease out what they are.  For example, I’ve attempted to formalize some of them and link topics to standards for the algebra-based introductory programming course I’ll be doing.

Course concepts for high school programming classes

Course concepts for high school programming classes ready to be put in order.

A tactic I’ve tried to get myself unstuck has been to write out concepts I want to cover on post-its and try to shuffle them around to see what goes together, what kind of orderings are possible and what can be cut out.  Topics are so inter-woven that it hasn’t been quite as successful as I hoped though getting all the topics out has been helpful.

Ultimately, I think I need to come up with a number of compelling assignments and tasks I want students to be able to complete and work from those.  I just need to fight off this “designer’s block!”

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS