Suggestions and Innovations
The effort and time that you put in to the initial preparation of your courses has a positive impact on how you experience the semester and the success of the learners in your classes. Please consider how the following tips may help you organize your semester.
Have your Instructional Plans Ready
Review the Guidelines for Creating Instructional Plans prior to writing them.
Try out the Instructional Plan template. Please feel free to download a copy and modify to suit your own needs.
If you rely on group work assignments, plan for at least two opportunities where you can observe the students in class in their groups.
Be sure to have your Instructional Plan posted to eConestoga prior to the start of the Winter semester. Classes start the week of January 9 but students have access to your course two days before your first class. Be sure to plan for the Statuary Holidays (February 19 and March 30), Student Success Week (February 26 - March 2), and KPI Week (TBD). No evaluations can be scheduled during KPI Week.
Post all Documents in eConestoga
All students benefit from being able to preview and organize in advance. Some students also need to convert your materials to alternative formats.
- Have all learning documents in eConestoga at least a week before classroom use.
- Work toward the goal of having all materials posted at the start of the semester in a layout that students can easily navigate.
Since the students have the materials prior to class, your focus in preparing your lessons can be on having students actively working with the materials and watching as you demonstrate and talk-aloud about your thought processes while modelling the skill or analyzing the theory.
The following tips may help improve the evaluation delivery within a program.
- Carefully plan where to place the evaluation items. Avoid the first one to two weeks.
- Start with something as low stakes as possible.
- Calculate the time you will need to mark the items so you can provide feedback and guidance to the class and individual students before to the next item being due.
- Consult with your team to ensure evaluations are not overloaded into certain weeks.
Further, avoid having all courses with major exams and assignments all due prior to Student Success Week. Have some after the break. Check with your Coordinator or Chair so you know if the last week of the semester is a formal exam week or a week of regular classes or mixed.
The First Two Classes
It is a best practice to make full use of the time you have in the first week of classes. Avoid letting students go early. This time is great for setting expectations, building classroom relationships and providing learning opportunities. It may be that you will need to revisit core concepts worked on in the first few weeks, as students can get overwhelmed with information.
it is important to set a culture for positive group work early in the semester. Visit our resources on Setting Up Group Work to find strategies you can use to make this happen.
Set your Expectations for Academic Integrity
It is a good idea to get copies of the Academic Offenses form from your Chair’s Administrative Assistant or from the Register’s Office. Print off the Academic Integrity Policy and Procedure.
- Review the various categories of offences and the processes briefly in class.
- Make clear for your students the powerful quality of learning that occurs when originality, knowledge, skills, attitudes, and higher order thinking skill development is the goal.
- Be sure that you distinguish between poor documentation and plagiarism in written work and that your rubric accounts for common mistakes like matching citations and references, originality, not over-quoting.
- Be aware that many students will attempt to take short cuts when one is possible. Prepare for events of cheating on tests and quizzes.
International students seem to be especially vulnerable to being caught in an academic offence, perhaps due to a new educational environment and not trusting their own developing language skill set.
Make Accessibility a Priority
Many students have complex accommodation needs. Be sure to open the conversation about accessibility in the first class
For your own knowledge, once classes have started, go to each of your courses to review the student accommodation letters. These letters can arrive or be updated at any point in the semester so be sure to respond to notification emails. If you are unclear about what is required, contact the advisor listed on the letter.
- In class, open MyConestoga and point out the Accessibility Hub icon.
- You may be asked to look for a student volunteer for note taking. The volunteer will get Co-Curricular credit for their work. Please encourage participation as there are not enough note takers available.
- Be sure not to forbid the use of electronic devices outright. As per the Student Guide, devices should only be required to be put away "when a safety issue or distraction occurs." Many students will also be using them to record notes, as an accessibility point.
Create a Culture of Student Success
With the broad range of neuro-diversity and physical needs in a modern class, creating a welcoming environment is crucial to academic success.
- Many students find it challenging to sit for hours. Invite students to stand and stretch if needed.
- Similarly, inform the students they can leave the classroom to attend to personal needs, if necessary. Make it clear they should exit the class, and return, in a non-disruptive manner.
- Try not to save the break time and let the class go early. A shared and predictable break is important to both physical needs and mental refreshment.
- Be sure to end class at 10 minutes before the hour so that you and the students also have that time to refresh and get to the next class. Exiting the room promptly also allows the next teacher to have their set-up time.
Prepare for the Strain on Your Voice
Keep water on hand when teaching. Speaking for prolonged periods is very drying to the vocal cords. Plan the flow of the lesson so you speak for limited amounts at a time. Provide some input and then let students work with it while you circulate and coach. Varying the pace between input and practice and between passive listening and active manipulation of content is good for everyone.
Give Yourself Time to Mark
- Set time aside in your calendar from the start for marking.
- Help students appreciate how long marking could take. Be transparent with them and explain, “I have 4 classes of 40 students and all of the reports are coming in at the start of Week Nine. I will mark diligently through the next week and a half but don’t expect to see the marks posted until ___.”
- Be very deliberate in spacing your evaluations in your Instructional Plan so you can get items back in a timely manner and before the students need to submit another assignment.
- Providing formative or summative feedback as well as a mark takes time and energy. Be sure to take breaks and keep perspective.