Sections are an opportunity for students to engage further with the content of the professor’s main lecture. Some professors are very specific about what they want Teaching Fellows (TFs) to do, to the point of writing out the problems to be solved in section or specifying discussion questions. Others give their TFs a great deal of independence. Ideally, faculty and TFs should work together to determine what to teach and how to teach it; no matter how much independence faculty wish to give their TFs at the level of the individual lesson plan, they should still provide guidance and offer suggestions as to the kinds of takeaways students should have in order to progress through the semester. In any case, sections should be an opportunity for students to engage with the course content beyond the lecture in order to enhance their learning.
We encourage Teaching Fellows to clarify the responsibilities of their role—for example, whether or not they must attend the main lecture; how sections are meant to connect with the overall learning goals of the course; what their role will be in designing, assigning, coaching and evaluating the assessments students are expected to complete; and what administrative tasks (e.g. maintaining Canvas discussion fora) they should expect to take on. We suggest using our Pre-Term Planner for this purpose.
Preparing for, and Delivering, a Lesson
Preparing for and delivering a lesson is a multifaceted process. Planning involves thinking about the goals for the lesson, considering how information will be presented, and deciding how students can engage with the content. Delivery involves the way you communicate the content and facilitate the session. That is a lot to think about and it is no surprise that planning for lessons can take a long time. Managing classroom dynamics is a skill that you will develop over time.
- Establish clear lesson objectives. What do you want students to get out of the lesson? What should they know or be able to do as a result of the lesson? How does it connect with the larger course objectives? These objectives should guide your lesson.
- Create a plan. Doing so will help you organize your time. Sharing the agenda with students helps them know what to expect and what they should aim to get out of the session. It also helps focus the class.
- Organize your section. Each section should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Have a clear introduction or agenda so everyone knows what is happening, then dive into the main part of the lesson. Use clear transition words to help students follow. Wrap up with a summary and conclusion.
- Be intentional about presenting information. You may do this with the board, slides, or handouts. Consider closely how students will be able to engage with your presentation materials. If a student walked into class a few minutes late, would he/she be able to figure out what was happening from what you've written on the board?
- Use your space well. Insofar as possible, use movement to check in on students' work and to guide their interactions. When students are working together in groups, circulate to check in and interact with them; when they are talking to each other, consider positioning yourself near different students over the course of the conversation to remind students to look around the room at each other.
- Infuse interactivity. Throughout your section, include opportunities for students to engage with the material in a meaningful way. This can be quick, such as by asking students to answer questions, or by having students spend 5 minutes working in pairs on a problem or responding to a prompt. (For more ideas see our page on Active Learning.)