The Post-Lecture Post-Mortem

- - posted in teaching

The first thing I do after every one of my lectures is write what I call a post-mortem. it’s just a little text file that captures what worked that day, what didn’t, and any ideas I have for improvement next time. It sits right next to my PowerPoint slides and the notes that guided me through those slides.

Sometimes the notes are simple (from my Monty Hall class):

* This class went great--even had five minutes left.
* They all saw the Monty Hall example in a movie (21)
  a few years ago, so I need to be more careful next 
  time to make sure they actually understand how it works.

Sometimes I note a few small areas for improvement (from my colonoscopy class):

* Terrific first hour and 5 minutes, but then had to rush
  through the last 10m of two sample tests. Grr.
* Next time cut small samples. I don't actually need them 
  to teach the ttest command.

Sometimes I just want to warn my future self that the material fell flat and I need to do something:

* It was fine, but could use more polish. Maybe I was just tired. 
* Problem breaks went great. 
* Need to do more with the Poisson distribution
* Finished right on time.

Often, after I teach a class for the first time I have a long list of necessary changes and potential improvements:

* Wisdom of Crowds demonstration went great--finished it at 20m.
* Need better handwriting for problem breaks and I should go a
  little bit slower when solving them.
* I should have taught probability trees.
* While the students worked on the Yale/Harvard problem, I
  wandered around and saw everyone was putting Yale/Harvard on
  one axis and Admit/Deny on the other. I had to set them
  straight. Next time have them think hard about what the two
  uncertain things are in the problem.
* I should have special Venn diagram slide for conditional
  probabilities with some labels and arrows
* I should have neatly typed solutions for the Harvard/Yale 
  and HGH problems so they aren't so dependent on my handwriting

It usually only takes a few minutes to get these notes on “paper” after class but they are gold the next time I prepare to teach the same material.