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I am a PhD student and I have been given the opportunity to teach a course over a three weeks period (2h per day, 30h in total) at an institution overseas. I feel competent in the field of the course I will be teaching, but in practice it will be my first time preparing and delivering a course (which is not the same as doing tutoring, or being a TA).

What strategies can I put in place to be an efficient teacher? In particular, I am afraid not to have enough materials to cover 2 hours of time for each lecture (but then I realize that if I am thinking that, it means I'll probably be waaayyy too fast, so that's not good). I am also afraid of being unable to read the classroom, and of losing the students' interest too quickly.

Of course, I can prepare a lot of material to cover, then just go on my way, see where I end when the two hours are over, and start from there at the next lecture. But this might be too unstructured for the students, and I have very little time between two lectures to reorganize the material, since I am teaching every day for three weeks.

If you can share with me tips from your experience, I'd be very happy.

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    Re: "I am also afraid not to be able to read the classroom", see How do I 'read the room' and adjust my pace while lecturing? – ff524 Sep 14 '17 at 19:46
  • It might help if you could train it, at least your first lecture. Prepare it, ask some friends/colleagues to listen to it and give you feedback on the content, the speed of presentation, your style of presentation, etc. There are many important things and we can't help you avoiding every possible issue. If said colleagues are already experienced at giving lectures (e.g. your advisor), that will of course help. – Dirk Sep 15 '17 at 7:13
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Rather than simply preparing material and plowing through it, I strongly recommend taking a "backward design" approach. You can Google that, but the basic idea is to start by thinking carefully about what it is you want students to have learned by the end of the course, and working backwards to what lectures, activities, and assessments contribute to this end. I've found this to be very useful, both for myself and for the students.

As a general idea, keep in mind that teaching and learning aren't equivalent; it's easy to deliver material, but that doesn't mean that it's absorbed or understood, and it's worth thinking about what classroom activities make learning more likely. Your (present) university probably has some sort of teaching consulting group, who are probably worth chatting with. Good luck, and have fun!

  • Thanks! This is good advice. I think working "backwards" is very helpful indeed, as the structure of the class comes more naturally (if I want them to know this in the end, then I need to introduce this, then this, etc). – AnSy Sep 15 '17 at 13:34
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Because of the format of your class, you will need to prepare ahead of time. It really isn't possible to prepare two hours' worth of material every night if you're teaching a course for the first time. There's just too much effort involved.

That said, you're also going to need to be somewhat pragmatic in your lecturing. I prepare my material by writing out a "script" (Vorlesungskript) that reads more like a textbook. I find that I can cover about eight to nine pages of notes written in that style in a two-hour lecture. Anything more than that and I'll have "spillover." (Also, I schedule my two-hour lectures as two fifty-minute segments, with a ten-minute break, because I find holding students' interest for two hours is just too tough.)

  • Note that the number of pages depends on the field taught. In mathematics, for example (when talks include proofs on the blackboard), it is really rare for a professor to cover more than three pages in a 90min lecture. – Dirk Sep 15 '17 at 7:05

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