Higher EducationPedagogyPop Quiz

Pop Quiz: Tapas Lectures! Little Bites But Many Portions

This semester I am teaching the worlds most frustrating astronomy college class. It is not the topic that bothers me, nor is it the students. It is not the inadequate book that we use (close second), or the people I work with. Nope. It is none of these things. So what is driving me mad about this class?


This class that I teach normally has a 2 hour block of lecture time devoted to it and normally meets once a week. I teach a similar class at another school that has blocked out a 4 hour lecture time once a week. Both of these blocks of lecture time are adequate for the material that needs to be presented. However, I was chosen to teach a chopped up version of the 2 hour block this semester.  A fifty minute twice a week course.  I want to tear my hair out!

Girl Screaming

Let me break down why this class has me wanting to find a pub at 10 a.m. twice a week.

  1. It takes at least five minutes to get the class settled. Meaning that a few people are wandering in a couple minutes late, some of the students are getting there notes out, cell phones are being put away etc.
  2. It takes another five minutes to go through business. By this I mean telling the students about what is due today or soon, quiz or exam dates to watch out for, the lecture schedule, and any reading assignments that need to be done. Also, any extra little things that I think could be of interest to them for the class like Cosmos airing on television.
  3. Now it may take between 5 – 10 minutes for the next item of the class schedule and that is questions on homework, quizzes, exams, or last lecture. If we just had an exam this does take 10 minutes because the exam has to be handed out and discussed.  Sometimes for hard homework problems this may take longer than 10 minutes but that is not really that usual.
  4. Now finally after about almost 15 minutes we can start the lecture. It takes at least 5 minutes to get the students focused on the material.

Okay, so at this point anywhere from 15 – 20 minutes of my class has gone by.  You might say okay so you have 30 minutes left. Not so. I actually have to let the students out 5 minutes before the scheduled time due to college rules. As you can see I have very little time left to get into the lecture. By the time I have started to mold brains and get them going the class needs to stop generally right in the middle of a topic. Which means next class I have to spend a couple minutes reminding them what we did last class which takes up more time!!!!! So the class gets chopped up pretty badly which I think is not conducive to the learning process.

I am not the only one that does not like this time barrier we have. The students have told me a number of times that they don’t understand why the class was scheduled this way and they would have rather had the longer class period. Honestly, I think if it where an hour for 4 days in a row that would be better since at least the material from the day before would be fresher.

So I have been trying to find a better restructured way to teach this course. One that would benefit the student learning patterns. It is not going well and I would like some advice.

Do you think shortened twice a week classes are beneficial to the students in a lecture course? Do you have any time management solutions to this problem?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons (ET).


Featured Image: Double Faced by Pierre EmD

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JoDee is an adjunct faculty instructor of astronomy and physics at various colleges around her hometown in the midwest. When she is not trying to get her cat, Pixel, off of her laptop she is observing variable stars and researching black holes.


  1. March 21, 2014 at 3:14 pm —

    How about doing most of parts /2/ and /3/ (“going through business” and “next item on schedule”) through e-mail rather than in class? Obviously, in-class interaction is required for discussing the questions on the previous exam/homework, etc., — but giving out dates/deadlines/info about “extra little things that could be of interest” can be more easily and quickly handled by a group e-mail to all class-members.
    This will save you 5 to 8 classroom minutes right there,

    • March 21, 2014 at 6:08 pm —

      kategladstone that is a good idea one that I wish I could use. The college I teach at has a website we use to put up any information that has already been given out in class. It is used for uploading class slides from lecture, keeping a schedule, and for the students to keep track of their grades. However, because my course is not considered an online course I cannot post anything to an email or to the website that I did not actually discuss in class. This includes “going through business”. Yes, this is a policy at my place of business. It is silly but it is there never the less. The other funny thing is you would be surprised how many students do not check their email or even get the slides for the lectures EVER!!! Anyway, thanks for the suggestion I appreciate it.

      • March 23, 2014 at 3:59 pm —

        Can you run through some things like what is due when and the upcoming schedules during those 10 minutes at the start and end of class when people aren’t paying attention, and then email it out? You say you have to let them go 5 minutes early (WTF?) but do things that you discuss during those last 5 minutes count as mentioned during class so that you could then email it out?

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