Book Review: On Course: A week-by-week guide to your first semester of college teaching by James M. Lang

As a graduate student and post-doc one of the on-line resources that I checked out on a regular basis was the Chronicle of Higher Education. One of my favourite columns to read was written by Jim Lang who at that time was a new faculty member who had insightful things to say about teaching university students.

Although I’ve been teaching university courses for a few years now, I’m always on the look-out for ways to improve how I deliver and organize my classes. As such I recently finished reading “On Course: A week-by-week guide to your first semester of college teaching” by James M. Lang. The book was published in 2008 and most of what is discussed is still highly relevant to university teachers today, barring some references to MySpace, WebCt, and other platforms that have fallen out of favour.

The book is logically organized and starts with the creation of syllabi and ends with a discussion on the teaching face or persona that you show to your students. The book is a comprehensive overview of what it is like to experience teaching in a university setting for the first time. It contains many tips and tricks that will save professors time and angst as they prepare and deliver classes. His advice is dispensed with good humour and through the use of various anecdotes in an attempt to save new teachers from the pitfalls that are typical of the first year of teaching.

I would highly recommend this book to newly hired faculty members who will be teaching for the first time this fall as a “how-to guide” for successfully navigating the art of effective course planning and delivery.

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