Course Pack Notes Rehab

One of my first big teaching challenges was to pick up renal physiology in my repertoire to teach for first, second and third year students.  I was given the option of using the course pack notes from the previous prof, but I just didn’t feel right about doing that, and besides the fact, I thought it would be fun to make my own. WOW, not fun.

Maybe I should define what course pack notes are.  For many of our courses, we create one resource that students are required to purchase.  In it, we have our condensed notes on a topic and outline our lecture objectives in a “workbook” layout.  My theory on my course pack notes is that I want students to be able to listen to my lecture and be guided to take efficient notes.  For example, I provide a picture of a nephron for students to label anatomy and spaces for them to job down how each section functions.  I also provide a fair amount of text because I want students to read bits of the content either before or after lecture, highlighting topics that I may not have time to cover as thoroughly while during lecture.

However, this is no easy task and also forces me to have my lectures ready in July, even though I won’t teach the topic until March.  It also sounds good in theory, but WOW, it is hard work.  Even when I think I have it right, I find out I don’t (as I note during my lecture by the groans and sighs in the classroom).

Here is a problem I have faced, how do I provide enough information but keep it from looking overwhelming (especially if this is the first time my notes were looked at right in class).  I don’t provide a “textbook” of complete information RenalNotes2008.  I want students to do work in class.  I don’t want them to just see a picture of a labeled nephron, I want them to draw with me in class and go through the process.  I give them the reasons for each of the labels, and how each transporter works.  BUT, the nephron is overwhelming.  I can’t skip this content, I can’t just summarize it, I have to give them the whole deal because otherwise it doesn’t make sense.  I had enough sense to list each of the transporters in the text below, so that students could go back and make connections later.  I even say in class, “I have all of the information that I am saying on your page, so don’t panic”….and they panic.

I get it, this is the first time they have heard this information, they are drawing with me and there are a lot of details encapsulated in just this one page.  So they really have to believe me that I am telling them the truth, that indeed, all the information is there on their page.  Now, as I look back at this little worksheet, it is overwhelming.  I realize that I have to look at each and every of my course pack notes with my students eyes.

So after a few more iterations, I have come up with the latest version RenalNotes2013.  I am hoping I have this right.  Although this page doesn’t contain as much of the information as the previous iteration, it hopefully provides the structure and space I was going for, and prevents the “freak outs” that happen when there is text overload.  I think I may have this one page of my course pack right, it’s only been four years…sigh.

I love thee course pack notes, but you don’t love me back. We have a relationship of love and hate. The perfectionist in me has caused much grief because I am starting to think I will never be done with you.  Now you see what I called this post rehab? My delayed gratification will be the lack of groans during that lecture on March 6, 2014 and students will throw confetti and cheer….


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