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The first day of class is an important time. This CDTL Brief on Preparing for the First Lecture/Class provides tips on pre-class preparations, ideas on approaching the first class session and hints in getting comfortable in front of the class.

July 2004, Vol. 7, No. 6 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
Making or Breaking a Course—the First Lesson
Winston Lee Piak Nam
Human Resource Management Unit

The motto of the Scout Movement “Be Prepared” tells us that things do not happen by chance in life. Instead, in order to accomplish any task successfully, it is important to plan and prepare a course of action. Preparation, which is part of planning, is the pre-requisite and foundation of good management. Success stories of people from different spheres and disciplines owe their achievements to careful preparation, which preludes the execution of their work.

In any professional activity, sufficient preparation ensures the smooth conduct of business. For example in a restaurant, the amount of planning and preparation that goes into creating the menu is often taken for granted. Unknown to many, menu planning is an intricate process. The chefs have to reckon with such complex factors as client choice, nutritional standards and regulatory requirements along with practical matters such as budgetary constraints, culinary expertise of employees, production equipment and eye appeal of the finished meal.

Likewise as lecturers, we need to be adequately prepared before the delivery of our lessons. In fact, it is quite unthinkable for any teacher to be unprepared before a class. In the context of education, preparation includes planning the course objectives, learning outcomes, curriculum and mode of delivery. Failure to make substantial preparations, especially for the very first lecture or lesson, will undermine the credibility of the lecturer whom the audience look to for professional conduct and practice. While leaving a good first impression can stimulate students’ interest in the subject, the lack of preparation may result in negligence which could undermine or ruin our images as professional educators. Thus, the first lesson can make or break the course.

Lecturers who have been teaching for a long time should not be complacent and think that with ample teaching experience, it is therefore not necessary to prepare for lessons. It is every lecturer’s responsibility to make the appropriate essential preparation, just as other professionals would before executing a project. Lecturers who are well prepared are meticulous in their lesson plans and are clear about the lesson’s objectives. They are able to introduce new ideas and concepts through appropriate learning activities. Conversely, lecturers who lack preparations often come late for classes, lecture in a disorganised manner and fumble when using audio-visual equipments and other teaching aids. Below are some areas for preparation:

Course objectives and lesson plans. The first stage of preparation involves careful consideration of the purposes and objectives of the course, which will lead to the development of the curriculum. Each lesson is then designed to meet the overall objectives of the course. For example in the Human Resource Management course on “Interpersonal Relations: Theory & Practice” which I have taught, I engaged the students in reflective activities to know more about themselves and their course mates at the beginning before I introduced (in subsequent lectures) other topics like motivation, communication, leadership, etc. As intended by the course objectives, the lectures and learning activities were prepared in such a way that students can learn progressively to appreciate the various dynamic forces in the ever-changing world of work and increasingly understand how they themselves could fit into the macro picture and also to be able to work well with others in a team.

Learning activities. It is also important to consider the type of tutorial activities which will support the learning objectives of the course. This is especially crucial at the start of the course because tutorial activities, if well planned, can motivate the students to learn. Some examples of learning activities that are appropriate for tutorials are: case-studies, discussions, role-plays, team-building exercises, videos, debates and personal and group project presentations.

Facilities/teaching resources. The preparation process would also involve consideration of the use of appropriate learning environment and facilities like lecture theatres, laboratories, overhead projectors and flip charts. Often, these are neglected and dismissed as unimportant. However, effective teaching and learning can be hampered by the lack of inadequate logistics and technical support. For example, it is common to see lecturers who do not know the seating capacity of the lecture theatre, or some who are not able to operate equipments such as slide projectors and video-recorders. These give the audience an impression that the lecturers are either not adequately prepared or do not know how to use these resources.

Time management. Good planning will ensure that lectures or lessons start and end punctually. It is also good practice to book the required facilities and resources in advance. On the day of the class, the lecturer should arrive early to ensure that the lecture theatre or classroom is opened, arrange the students’ name cards, chairs, get the audio-visual equipment checked and set the air-conditioners to the right temperatures. Being early also gives the lecturer opportunities to interact with the students.

In conclusion, adequate preparation is vital to facilitate effective learning. Failure to do so will not only undermine the professionalism and credibility of the lecturers but also hinder the teaching process and effective learning. In preparing for the first lecture, it would be helpful also to seek advice from fellow colleagues on how they conducted their lessons in the past. With such communal support, preparing for the first lecture or subsequent lessons may be less stressful and more enjoyable.

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Inside this issue
The First Class—Getting my Act together
Your First Class: Preparation and “Theatre”
Stimulating Student Interest in the First Lecture
Starting on the Right Track
Making or Breaking a Course—the First Lesson