Third Time is the Charm

School starts back at UGA today. My class meets for the first time tomorrow. Having taught the same course twice before, I’m ready.

My first time teaching the class was a hot mess. My biggest mistake was to follow the textbook, chapter and verse. Some of the content I hadn’t seen since my own college days. Creating tests was a challenge too — questions that looked straightforward to me were confusing to students.

Lessons were learned. Things went much better the second time. I devoted an extra class session for some topics, combined others into one session, and added a few new topics. Test questions were less confusing too. Student evaluations of my teaching were very positive.

My biggest shortcoming is lecture-heavy classes. The students may as well watch a video. Talking too fast is another complaint, so the ability to rewind the video would actually be an improvement. This semester, I’m working on both of those problems.

The homework I assign is very applied. Students delve into influences on spending habits, practice comparison shopping, and compare the impact on the total cost of borrowing from small changes in loan terms (down payment, interest rate, and length of the loan). The feedback is overwhelmingly positive and often downright heart-warming.

In previous semesters, I’ve offered a few post-grading observations about the assignments. This semester, I’ll break them into small groups afterward to talk about the experience. I’ve also added a capstone assignment to choose a product or service and develop a buying guide to help consumers make informed decisions about purchasing it.

The first day of class is all about the syllabus and disclosures related to privacy, disabilities, and academic honesty. While I’m going over this exciting stuff, my students will do a blind taste test of a national brand, a store brand, and an off brand of chocolate chip cookies. I might casually mention the high likelihood of unannounced taste tests.

In addition to at least one more taste test (breakfast cereal), I found or created nearly enough in-class activities to do one every time we meet. All these activities and group discussions take time. Squeezing everything into the semester is my biggest concern.

We’ll see how it goes. The good news is it’s my class — if I need to drop a topic or two, I can. You know I’ll keep you posted.