The Trending Prof

Anita Woods Ph.D., University Educator

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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