The current term is winding down, and you’re probably getting set for enjoying some time off over the next few weeks. But before you’re completely in “holiday mode,” take some time to consider what you have on deck for the next semester.

In McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, authors Marilla Svinicki and Wilbert J. McKeachie identify three things you should be sure to consider and plan for approximately a month before the start of classes. Take some time to review, refine, or create these elements of your course before your next term starts:

1. Lesson plans for your first few class sessions. Review your syllabus, and take note of the topics you plan to cover during the first days of class. Create outlines for your first few lectures. Think of some contingency plans to put into place if a certain topic takes more (or less) time to cover. If you already have the basics in place, review your outlines and update them with some new research or examples. As additional thoughts or refinements come to mind, add them to your outlines.

2. Teaching methods. Review what has worked well (and what hasn’t) in previous terms; revise your class plans accordingly. Instead of having a class discussion on a particular topic, you might want to have students complete a reflective writing exercise or a role-play activity. You might decide that you want to introduce a particular concept during your lecture, rather than simply cover it through your course readings. Using a variety of activities and methods keeps the course fresh for both you and your students. (Review our previous post, “Smart Teaching Strategies from Cengage Learning’s TeamUP,” for some ideas.)

3. Tech tools. Thinking of using a new technology tool into your presentations? Give yourself some time to test it out before class starts, so that you’re familiar with its functionality. You’ll also have time to evaluate its efficiency, effectiveness, and appropriateness as a learning tool in your classroom.

(Svinicki and McKeachie, 16-17)

Whatever you do, avoid waiting for the last minute to get set for next semester! As Svinicki and McKeachie write, “…a course begins long before you meet your students”(6). So grab a cup of hot tea or cocoa, work on next term’s materials, and be prepared to start the new year on a great note!


What are your suggestions for steps an instructor can take to be sure he or she is ready for the next semester? Share your recommendations and ideas in the comments. 

Reference: Svinicki, Marilla, and Wilbert J. McKeachie. 2014. McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers,14th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.