Summer classes can present challenges for instructors at all levels due to the compressed time period and students who may have trouble staying motivated over the summer months.

Covering the required material faster can be difficult, but it’s certainly doable, especially with some fresh concepts and curriculum ideas to guide your lesson planning.

Defining the problem

No matter what level you teach, instructors most likely will be struggling with one if not all of these areas when establishing effective lesson planning for their summer classes—teaching methodology, student assignments, assessments and academic rigor.

For professors Alicia R. Crowe, Eunsook Hyun, and Mark Kretovics, all of whom contributed to “Reflections on Summer Teaching: Academic Rigor or Curriculum Light?” in the January 1, 2005, issue of Summer Academe, academic rigor proved to be the area of highest concern. They determined that academic rigor “included an emphasis on the learning process of our students. Aspects of this learning process included: challenging work; deep thinking; making and understanding connections; and the construction of new knowledge.”

Matching expectations with reality

One of the issues that commonly arises with summer classes is a disconnect between the expectations of the students and the realities of lesson planning. Therefore, instructors at all levels should be prepared to modify their requirements or spend time preparing students to handle the additional responsibilities. Other fresh ideas include reducing time spent on lectures and/or class discussions in favor of more process-oriented interactive activities.

While it may be tempting to alter the goals, content and rigor of summer classes, in actuality what should change are    the methods of conveying the material and how the work is graded, no matter what the level of academia.

What’s the solution?

Leigh Chiarelott narrowed down the questions instructors should consider when creating curriculum ideas, whether for summer classes or the regular term, in Curriculum in Context, First Edition. Her focus was on contextual learning theory, which provides students with another avenue to grasp the subject matter via social, cultural, physical and psychological experiences that are relevant to their own experiences. The four questions she suggested considering when planning are:

  1. What educational purposes should we seek to attain?
  2. How can learning experiences be selected that are likely to be useful in attaining these objectives?
  3. How can those experiences be organized for effective instruction?
  4. How can the effectiveness of learning experiences be evaluated? (Chiarelott, 35)

A few more fresh concepts

Lesson planning in advance will be critical to a successful slate of summer classes, but are there other ways you can make the most of this compressed learning time? Of course! To keep that lesson planning on track, you may want to have a file (physical or online) for each day of the course that details your curriculum ideas for that class. When it comes to assignments, keep it simple so that you and the students aren’t overwhelmed. Finally, students may expect that summer classes will be more relaxed. Be sure to set the tone of how you expect the session to go from the very beginning.

What fresh ideas have you incorporated into your curriculum ideas for summer classes? Let us know in the comments.

Reference: Chiarelott, Leigh. 2006. Curriculum in Context, 1st Edition, Belmont, Ca: Wadsworth.