Paul L. Caron

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Maule: A 27-Step Guide to Teaching a Tax Course

YodaI previously noted that Jim Maule (Villanova) has a well-deserved reputation as the Yoda of tax teachers, as he generously shares his insights with both tax faculty (via email discussion groups, exam banks, and PowerPoint banks) and tax students (via CALI exercises).  His latest contribution is Preparing for Class, Law-Profesor Style, which details the 27 steps he takes in preparing to teach his tax courses: 

Long before I walk into the first class in any course, I have been investing significant amounts of time preparing for the course. For fall semester courses, the preparation usually begins in April or May, is suspended during most of the summer, and resumes in August. For spring semester courses, the preparation usually begins in late October or November, is suspended during part of December, and resumes in early January. Some people, including law students, think that there's nothing much for the professor to do but to pick up the book assigned to the course and last year's notes, walk into the classroom, and begin talking. Though that might happen in some courses, it ought not happen, and it surely doesn't happen in my courses. I've been meaning, for several years, to dedicate a posting to an explanation of the process that I use to prepare a course that I have previously taught. Hopefully, it's informative to people inside the law school community as well as to those who are on the outside looking in. ...

Well, that's how I get ready for a course. There are law faculty who follow a similar pattern. There are others who do not. Someone who does not use Powerpoint slides, clicker questions, or problems requiring preparation and solution, and who does not provide supplemental materials, can omit a good chunk of what I do as I prepare. If they also omit semester exercises, there's even less to do. I do what I have decided needs to be done for my teaching to be effective. I doubt I'd be comfortable trying to get by on less. And without my checklist, which is a shorthand version of the 27 steps I've described in this post, I'd be lost. So, when someone asks what I am doing when I'm not in the classroom, I explain that in addition to writing and dealing with committee and other administrative matters, I'm working through my course preparation checklist. I'm usually getting ready for next semester while the current semester is underway. In a few years there will come a semester when I won't be getting ready for a next semester. I will ditch those checklists and I will be …. yes, listless.

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