I was suggested to develop a mini-course that should last somewhere between a week and two weeks.

The subject of the mini-course is both advanced and niche -- material would be based mostly on my current work.

Target audience: roughly masters / Ph.D. students.

The course topic can be broadly defined as “Research in partnership with Indigenous Peoples”.

The problem is this: I have attended many courses and workshops myself and delivered more than a few PowerPoint presentations. However, I have never been part of teaching process, let alone developed a course. Now a potential opportunity presented itself and I do not know where to start (or whether to take the opportunity at all? -- it won't be particularly useful from career-building point of view. I am still on the fence).

I would appreciate any practical advice from active faculty on this subject. What are most common pitfalls to avoid?

1 Answer 1


If you want a career inside academia, then teaching is going to be a large part of your daily activity. A course has to be the first course you teach, and this sounds like a good opportunity:

  • a mini course is not as daunting as a full course
  • master and PhD students know more, they know what to expect from a university course and can better deal with anything that you did not perfectly explain, and are often better at articulating what they don't understand. So they are a forgiving audience for a begining teacher.
  • You know the subject matter

The main pitfall for me when I teach a course on a topic that I am really familiar with is that I don't realize that something that is self-evident for me now isn't self-evident to the students. So I have to explicitly formulate to myself the level of knowledge and skill I can realisticly expect from the students and what I want them to be able to do when the course is over. Than I plan out the course so they can get from that initial state to the goal state. When doing so, I almost always have revise the goal state down: if you are really familiar with a topic it is really easy to underestimate how difficult it is to learn it. When I plan out my course and think about what the students have to learn to get from what they know now and what they should know at the end of the course, it becomes obvious that that is not possible given the time available in the course. I don't get frustrated by that, and I don't feel like "dumbing down" the course when addepting the goal down. It is more a process of me remembering that I did not learn this topic in a couple of hours either. Having a course with realistic goals, and most students reaching those goals is really rewarding. Having a course with too optimistic goals and most students not reaching those is really frustrating for me and the students.

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