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Prof L

It depends on whether you've taught the material before, I think——I also think regardless of personal idiosyncrasies, 2 weeks is very bad advice, because you will have to prep twice. For 100 or 200 level courses, if I haven't taught the material, I will start prepping directly after I finish the previous class—so 2-5 days beforehand. How long it takes depends on the material. If I've taught it before, I typically prep on the day of, unless it's an early morning class, then I start prepping the previous afternoon. In that case, I try and give myself 1-2 hours to look over things, organize my thoughts and think about how to best communicate the material.


My experience is the same. If I do it too early, then I end up effectively re-doing it the day before I teach. So now I just do it the day before I teach.


In-person classes: When I use slides, I have them prepped from previous semesters, but I make changes a day or two in advance. (If I am doing something new, I start prepping slides three or four days in advance.) I lesson plan the day before for in-class activities and such.

Pandemic school: I prep my video lectures weeks and sometimes months in advance. I planned Zoom class activites a day in advance, as usual.

long term planner

I like to prepare quite in advance. I try to design my courses so the material covered is quite well integrated, with the themes covered related in a sensible fashion. So I like to do the prep before the course begins. Ideally, I have all the lectures laid out in a sketchy but presentable form before the course starts. And then, I review and revise before the class meeting, both the day before and the day of.
I have a relatively light teaching load, but I have many other unpredictable demands on me, that can prevent me for having an afternoon free the day I teach. I also have high research expectations.


If I don't have the slides, I try to start generating them a week before (but often fail and end up doing it the day before). Likewise, if I haven't done the reading before, I try to do it a week before.

Otherwise, I just skim/refresh the night before or, occasionally, the morning of.

When it's one of the classes I teach 6 times or more a year every year, however, at this point (two years in) I don't really bother prepping. I'll have a quick look at the slides ten minutes before just so that I remember what I'm doing that day, but that's it.


I guess I am a bit different than most people who have responded so far. When I teach a new course (or redesign a course) I will prep the entire course over the summer and then I basically do very little in-semster prep. Like 'long term planner' I like to have my courses well intergrated. So I will read all the articles I plan to use in a given course over summer (and articles I don't end up using, naturally). I then write detailed lecture notes on those articles I plan to assign. If I do need a refresher, I re-read my own notes instead of the article (which is of course MUCH faster). Writing very detailed lecture notes where I put all the major arguments in premise conclusion form and define all the key terms almost commits those articles to my memory as well. The notes then serve as the basis for what I am going to test the students on.

I also create fairly detailed lesson plans for each class session. (e.g., Class session 5: have class close read passage x and discuss the meaning; put class in small groups to put argument y in premise conclusion form--have students compare solutions on the board; explain concept f from the reading, etc.). These lesson plans are basically in bullet point form. I will also write homework questions and create handouts all at the same time as creating the lesson plan for each class session, as well as write all the exams and create the paper assignments. Doing this really frees my mind and gives me time to do other stuff over the ssemester (research/write; committee work; attend conferences). Also, since I have put a lot of thought into the initial set up of a course, I don't have to spend much time tweaking it. I just open the lesson plans document a few minutes before class starts, look at what I have planned, and go for it. Since the plan is detailed and has everything I need (handouts, group work planned, homework planned, etc), I really do not stress about class at all.

This method probably isn't for everyone, but I was taught it from someone else, and it has worked extraordinarily well for me.

Disabled (former) student

Those that prep very close to the teaching session: how do you allow for disabled students that need to see teaching materials in advance of the class? When a student, I got (most) lecture notes a week ahead of time (and I do this myself now) as it greatly helped me to engage with and contribute to class. They are not necessarily the absolute final versions - the slides/lecture notes used in class might change slightly from the early released ones, but broadly the same.

I'm not criticising here - just curious about how you all handle these sort of disability requirements if prepping so close to the time of the class?


I have never had an disability accommodation plan for a student that requested my slides ahead of time. If I received one, I might have to rethink a few things, since I typically refused to share my slides with students at all, at least before the pandemic.

Marcus Arvan

I've never had a student who received a disability accommodation like that, either. But if I did have such a student, I would of course make those accommodations. I'd just prepare everything a week in advance rather than the day before!

long term planner

I worked with student who needed slide ahead of time. They had a visual impairment, and they needed to really see up close. So I just sent them ahead. It was a good thing that I had them prepared in advance.

Galen Barry

I regularly teach new courses, as I am the mule of my department. For a new course, I prep in five stages.

First, about a week ahead of the day we do a reading, I'll re-read the material and underline things I might want to discuss or quotes I might want to pull. Second, about four days before, I'll jot up some notes based on parts I underlined. Third, about three days before I will make an outline of my slides. I set aside aesthetics and don't worry about the exact number of slides--rather, I just get into a powepoint various short-hand notes about what I want to include. I also will start dividing them into specific slides, but I'm not too worried about whether it's the exact number. I know it will change. Fourth, I make the powerpoint itself one or two days ahead of time. At this point it's 90% a matter of aesthetics and getting quotes into the slide. The substance and its order is already there in skeletal form. Fifth, either the day of or the night before I will do a quick reading of the slides and make minor last-minute changes. These are almost always changes I make at key transition points, for clarity's sake.

Though this seems like a lot, every stage is pretty quick. And it has the advantage of both not doing things too last minute, and yet not prepping too early in case a previous day's material runs into the next day or you decide something is too hard (etc.).


If I've never taught a class before and it is not something that I can handle by tweaking one of my existing classes, then I plan the broad outline/narrative of the course out pretty far out in advance.

I try to produce a basically complete syllabus and, especially, to understand the narrative arc of the course. I'll usually write a shortish (~5 pages) description of the narrative of each of the course units.

What I do not do well in advance is plan in detail for each lecture or day. I've found that it is inadvisable for reasons already mentioned (the 'freshness' of the material in mind). But I also find that planning things in detail so far in advance doesn't allow for the flexibility that I'd like. Each iteration of a course goes somewhat differently, students' interests may go in many directions, and I don't want to have a plan that proceeds as if that were not the case.

Guy Crain

I have every lecture, powerpoint, quiz, group assignment, and exam for the whole semester completed before day 1 of the semester.

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