How do I pitch my course at the right level?

By courseucan on 08/07/2020

By Danielle Barnett

Planning and Delivering a Course

So you’ve decided to run a course, got some lucky students to attend and now you’re sitting in front of your computer screen wondering where to start! Well… if you are teaching a course, you should know most of the content you will be teaching already, the key is to deliver it in a way that is engaging and at a pace that keeps your learners engaged and hungry for more!

Objectives and Outcomes

To start off, click back onto to your course page and remind yourself of the course description, after all, that’s a blurb that tells you exactly what your students are expecting to learn. Then set out some learning objectives and outcomes. What’s the difference? Well, as a teacher, for each lesson I plan I set out what concepts and skills I expect my students to learn – those are the learning objectives. I then outline a few learning outcomes – what would the outcome look like if the objectives I set out are met. Learning objectives and outcomes do of course overlap, but they are useful in guiding the organiser in planning and delivering their content.

How to Start Your Session?

Since you probably don’t know your students (and even if you do), it is absolutely crucial for you to get a feel for what they already know, their ‘prior knowledge’. This is important for a number of reasons:

  1. Your students may have researched the topic, or know a bit about it, particularly if they are interested in it. Therefore, If you assume no prior knowledge, you run the risk of having bored and disengaged students  – no one wants that!
  2. If you start off without getting a feel for what your students already know, you may end up pitching the course at a level far too advanced. Imagine being back at school, at 11 years old and your physics teacher is blabbing on about advanced quantum theory. You’re hardly going to be following what’s going on!
  3. Knowing how much or little your student’s know, will help you to help them make progress during your course. For example, you can direct questions of varying difficulty as different students, therefore helping them either build confidence and scaffold their knowledge, as well as stretch those that are ahead of the others.

Variety is key: Make sure that you include a mix of different types of activities

What type of resources/activities should you use?

  • Variety is key: Make sure that you include a mix of different types of activities, for example, some written work, some discussion, some teacher-led explanation, videos and demonstrations. Doing this will ensure that you are accommodating the learning needs of all of your students – after all, everyone learns differently.
  • Activity, activity, activity:  Lecturing is can be useful, but lecturers rarely have a good idea of what their students understand or struggle with. Get your students to be doing as much as possible! The more active they are on your course, the more engaged they will be, and as a result the more they will progress and learn. Giving them plenty of opportunities to practise their skills, will make them more confident, and you can be sure that they are benefiting from your course.
  • Scaffold and challenge: Whilst you don’t want your students to be bored because your course is too easy, you also don’t want them to be lost due to it being too difficult and inaccessible. Create resources that are scaffolded so that students can build their confidence as they go, and always include a challenge task for them to step out of their comfort zone – this is where the best progress is made.

Just enjoy yourself

It can be nerve-racking to deliver a course, but you can help yourself by doing the following things:

  • Be well prepared: have your resources/activities ready – be aware of what you are doing at every stage of the course.
  • Know your stuff: you need to be knowledgeable and confident that you have a good grasp of the material and content.
  • Enjoy yourself!! Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine, get to know your students and build relationships. People would love to see your enthusiastic, keen or even quirky side.

Danielle Barnett is a secondary school chemistry teacher with 9 years of teaching experience. She teaches in one of the top schools in the UK and loves to help students make excellent progress in their studies.