The End of Term

In one of my classes this term, I finished my lectures with time to spare. In the other two, I was so far behind, I had to skip content (which I hate to do) and talk really fast (which I really hate to do).

I try to make lectures fill the time available. That's not easy when I've got a new lecture: I don't know how long it'll take exactly. Maybe students will have lots of questions, or maybe my PowerPoint slides are confusing and I have to make up for it with a lot of top-of-my-head explaining. On the other hand, it could be deadly boring, and I'll rip through it just to put an end to everyone's misery.

One thing that helps is showing videos in class--for a number of reasons. They're great buffers. Running short of time? Cut the videos. Lots of time to spare? Show them all. Of course, I'd always like to show all the videos, because I believe there's some educational value in hearing people explain their theories in her own words. Especially if they're, er, dead now. I still have fond memories of some of the interesting videos that were shown in the classes I took as an undergrad.

Despite cutting out some videos, things didn't work out this term. But I know why: not all terms are created equal. For example, Tuesday/Thursday courses can have 25 or 26 classes during a Fall or Winter term. That's a difference of 80 minutes, which is a lot of lecture. It's even worse for Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday classes, which can have 36, 37, or even 38 classes--creating a maximum difference of 100 minutes.

Beyond showing videos, I really don't know how else to handle this variability. Should I create more lecture material and only use it some terms? But is that fair to the students who enroll in a different term and are "deprived" of some of my wonderful lectures? Should I just rip through it all when I'm short of classes in a given term? Or should I just try and fill the minimum amount of time, and then cancel any extraneous classes? (Why am I even asking this? Believe it or not, some students do not want profs to cancel any classes--they want to get as much of the time they paid for as possible.)

I'm looking forward to Spring term because the number of classes is always reliably the same. Although the amount of time I have to lecture in Spring is actually less than a Fall or Winter course. *sigh*

Why aren't you studying?

The Importance of Sleep, Again

I've written about the importance of sleep before, but I'm lecturing on sleep in intro psych so it's on my mind again. Actually, it's on my mind a lot--every day. That's because I haven't slept through the night in over a year. (This past week has been especially hilarious: the baby has actually had a few good nights sleep-wise, but on those nights, my other daughter has woken up in the middle of the night--needing Dada to help her get back to sleep. I totally get the irony of lecturing on the importance of sleep when I'm likely the most sleep-deprived individual in the room.)

What's worse is that I've been reading a lot of really good research showing just how important it is to get a good night's sleep. The Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS) has an annual meeting showcasing a huge amount of interesting work on sleep. At their meeting in June, 2009, one study in particular caught my eye (and the attention of some journalists and bloggers). It was found that sleep quality (not quantity, per se) was correlated with math scores. That is, the better your sleep, the better your scores on math exams. English scores went up, too. You don't think you can affect the quality of sleep you get? Sure you can: sleep on a regular schedule, don't pull all-nighters, and don't have a baby who wakes up every couple of hours. (OK, maybe that last one is a bit hard to do.)

Sleep also has been shown to aid memory: "Sleeping on it" may just be the best way to remember something. And in another widely reported finding, sleep quality turned out to be important for learning in general, and for learning vocabulary in particular. Ya, more gooder sleeps does to help your talking goodly-like and knowing the betterer words.

Ugh, I need a nap.

Why aren't you studying?

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