Time Savers: Teaching


  • Don't reinvent the wheel

    Use the textbook architecture to your advantage. Emulate past syllabi (or related syllabi online or in the program review) for the course you're preparing. Consult with veterans and senior faculty about the history of the course.

  • Don't over-prepare

    There's only so much material you can fit into an hour-long class. And if you're prep-to-teach ratio is 8 hours for every 1 hour of class (not including grading and other matters), then perhaps you're overdoing it. Trust your knowledge base and ability to work "off the cuff" if you run out of material during class. Remember that the students need to do their own intellectual work...plan to give them the opportunity.

  • Let the objectives be your guide

    Don't try to take on too much -- if an activity or lesson doesn't meet a course objective, save it for another class.

  • Mix it up

    Occasionally substitute activities for prepared lectures to tame prep time: films, guest speakers, class trips, small group projects, student performances, research days in library, office conferences, etc.

  • Stagger your due dates

    Collect major tests/papers from different classes on different weeks so that there's only one major task to complete per weekend. (e.g., WCT test collected this Thursday, STW term paper due next).

  • Use templates

    Create a "master" syllabus with the boilerplate text and calendar dates. Save it. Then add the original material to it and "save as" a different file.

  • Make tomorrow's prep a gift

    Don't leave your office at night until you've taken a few moments to prepare for the next day's classes. Make those copies a day early as a gift -- a "one thing you won't have to worry about" present -- to yourself.

  • Keep a log

    Reflect on class activities and events in a log or journal so that revising the syllabus for the next time you teach the course will be a snap.

  • Copy efficiently

    Avoid return trips to the copier -- do batches of more than one course at once. Make transparencies or "one sheets" you can reuse without spending time waiting for copies.

  • Keep a Teacher's Toolkit

    Keep supplies (markers, chalk, stapler, pens) and common tools that you routinely have to fetch in one satchel that you can bring to the classroom without having to "pack" for the trip every time.

Grading / Marking

  • Pace yourself

    Dedicate only X amount of time per paper/exam. Use an egg timer if you have to.

  • Take baby steps

    Plan to grade in small chunks -- don't let the height of the stack scare you away. I do five papers at a sitting before I take a break. For sections of twenty or more, I sometimes spread grading over a week this way, doing five papers a day.

  • Plan

    Schedule your grading sessions in your calendar and "punch the clock."

  • Take your time

    Give yourself permission to not return papers immediately (the following course meeting). But don't procrastinate, either. Avoid taking longer than a week, if you can help it.

  • Use commenting shortcuts

    Limit your endnotes to X number of sentences for each paper. Use abbreviations/codes for marking papers and give the students a "key."

  • Use technology

    Technology is a tool you can use to your advantage: if you type faster than you write with a pen, type your paper comments on a computer or portable device (label maker?). You can use keyboard shortcuts and macros to save steps, too. Some teachers tape oral feedback on cassette tapes.

  • Turn grading into teaching

    Have students grade each other by swapping papers and then going over answers as a class. Hold the "grader" accountable for their grading (I threaten to take points of their test for every question they grade incorrectly on another's). This turns quizzes into teaching tools and saves you marking afterward.

  • Take advantage of "between time."

    Carry papers/quizzes with you everywhere so that you can work on them in "between time" (e.g., waiting room, if lunching alone, awaiting meeting members).

Mike Arnzen, "Faculty Time Management: Secrets of Sanity," Teaching/Learning Forum