Teaching within a Compressed Timeframe

If you are preparing to teach a summer course, one of the most evident differences you will notice when comparing it to a semester-long course is that summer courses are more compressed. While the faster pace may seem challenging for instructors and students alike, summer term courses can also be very rewarding. We have gathered a list of best practices from reliable resources to help you plan your summer course efficiently and enjoy every class!

Strategy 1: Focus on Essentials

  • Divide the topics, key concepts, and methods into “must know, need to know, and nice to know” (Wilson, 2007). “Must knows” are the essential elements students need to get from your course, which can depend on students’ majors or school requirements (e.g. Hub Areas). “Nice to knows” are pieces of information that can be dropped without losing any meaningful content, and “need to knows” are in-between.
  • You should plan the course around the “must knows,” covering them in the second or third week (be prepared to review key concepts and material after enrollment stabilizes).

Strategy 2: Prepare Ahead

  • Organize your syllabus and each class around specific learning objectives aligned with the “must knows” you identified to stay focused. Due to the fast pace of summer term courses, it is generally a good idea to prepare the entire syllabus, class slides, and assignments well in advance, and not to wait until the course has started. You can maintain a “living” syllabus, but try to have most of the material ready or in draft form.
  • Incorporate checkpoints throughout the semester to gauge student progress. Some effective strategies to check the grasp and retention of must knows are
    1. require a pre-reading of the material
    2. implement frequent tests and quizzes, and
    3. implement discussions and group exercises around must knows.

Strategy 3: Pace Student Work

  • Introduce the main assignments as early as possible. Begin the semester with a clear idea of which are going to be the main assignments, keeping in mind that longer, research-based projects might need to be simplified due to time constraints.  Another good strategy is to deconstruct the assignment into smaller tasks and to provide ongoing feedback so that students can understand the expectations and improve faster. To be able to provide timely feedback, try to clear your deck of other commitments.
  • You can estimate how much time will be needed to complete assignments outside of class using a workload estimator.

Strategy 4: Foster Teacher-Student Interaction

  • Research shows that teacher-student interaction correlates with better performances, and interactions with the instructor and among peers are stronger in intensive classrooms (Digregorio, 1996–9, Crowe, Hyun, & Kretovics, 2005).
  • Make yourself available to students: Use software such as Calendly to let students know when you are available.
  • You should also maximize the support you’re offering to your students, periodically checking the pace and the enjoyment of the classroom, for example, using exit tickets.

Contributed by Federica Bocchi, formerly a PhD candidate in the Philosophy Department, College of Arts & Sciences (graduated 2023), and a Graduate Assistant in the Center for Teaching & Learning.

Last updated April 23, 2024