Managing Class Time

Many TAs worry that they won’t have enough material to fill the time. Others try to cram too much into a class meeting. As you gain experience, you’ll get a better sense of how to pace your classes and how much time various activities should take. In the meantime, thorough preparation and a willingness to be flexible can help you manage class time effectively.

When you prepare for a class, prioritize the information. Consider everything you might potentially cover and decide which topics are:

  • Absolutely necessary;
  • Somewhat important; and
  • Only to be included if there’s extra time.

This way you can be sure to cover the most important topics. If you have extra time, you’re also ready with additional material. (This may seem obvious, but many instructors often simply cover material in the order in which a text presents it.) At the beginning of class, give students a quick overview of the topics you plan to cover.

If you plan to spend part of a class session lecturing and part using more active learning techniques, be sure to leave sufficient time. Trying to cram in a brief discussion or group work session at the end of a long lecture sends the message that these activities aren’t really important.

The layout of Rutgers and the bus system all conspire to promote lateness, but class should still begin on time. If you routinely start five or ten minutes late, you’re letting students know that you will wait for them. Make it clear that class begins on time, and that students who are forced to show up a few minutes late should slip in quietly and speak with other students after class to find out what they missed.

If, during class, one or two students want to linger over a point when you feel the class needs to move on, invite those students to take up the issue with you during your office hours or at some later time. If the class as a whole seems to be getting a lot out of the discussion of a particular point, don’t rush them on to the next issue just to stick to your agenda.

Wrap up the class with a summation of key issues (or have a student do so) and give students some sense of what the next class meeting will cover. Immediately after class, take a few minutes to jot down some notes. These can include:

  • What went well;
  • What you might like to do differently next time; and
  • Whether there are any residual issues that you’ll need to cover in the next class.

This will help you better manage the time during future class meetings.

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