Pre-Semester Checklist; or, Proper Operating Procedure, 2020

Your guides

Marissa Greenberg, Associate Professor of English and Online Teacher of the Year 2020

Mary Willms Wohlmend, Instructional Designer


I teach early modern English literature. Shakespeare. Milton. The theory of tragedy in art. Lives aren't in the balance, at least not in the same way as they are for surgeons and pilots and engineers. So why do I need a checklist? What about our current moment, and the transitions that it requires, demands a checklist?

Higher education has become more complex.

Subject-matter expertise and charisma in teaching are no longer enough (if they ever were).

Attending to the welfare of students has also become a priority to an extent that is new for many (if not all) of us.

New modes of teaching and degrees of care work take time and energy that we are accustomed to dedicating elsewhere, including research, family, and hobbies.

"[T]he problem we face is ... 'eptitude' -- making sure we apply the knowledge we have consistently and correctly."

One solution to this problem is a CHECKLIST.

A checklist offers

"a different strategy [than training and practice] for overcoming failure, one that builds on experience and takes advantage of the knowledge people have but somehow also makes up for our inevitable human inadequacies."

~ Gawandi, The Checklist Manifesto, pp. 10, 19.

5 for Students

1. Technology. Online components are visible and functional in student view.

2. Organization. Course structure is consistent yet dynamic.

"[T]he most familiar and widely dangerous issue is a kind of silent disengagement."

~ Gawandi, The Checklist Manifesto, p. 103

The three (new) most important words in higher ed: Communication, communication, communication!

3. Inspiration. I communicate my excitement, priorities, purpose, methods, and/or aspirations.

4. Presence. Tactics for regular communication with students are in place.

5. Listen. Students have means and motive to communicate with me.

5 for instructors

6. Space. Safe, enabling workspace created.

7. Time. Schedule established for teaching and carework.

8. Efficiency. Media, formats, and tools are used to actualize schedule.

"[U]pheavals to our regular rhythms provide opportunities to combat the long-standing inequities that the crisis has brought into sharp relief and must prompt us to rethink our shared definition of productivity."

~ Greenberg and Williamson, "Rethinking Productivity during COVID-19"

9. Movement. Self-care is on my schedule; I will not simply "fit it in."

10. Mentality. I am redefining productivity to include teaching and carework.

Next steps...

  1. Tweak your checklist. Then, please share it with me so I can improve my checklist!
  2. Decide your method: Do-Confirm or Read-Do?
  3. Resist resistance. It's not just for students!
  4. Expect the unexpected. Even with the best preparation, hiccups will happen.
  5. Create pause points. If you chose only one of these "next steps," let it be this one.

In the spirit of pause points, I welcome you to share your thoughts with me about this webinar.

Contact me by email (marissag@unm.edu), on LinkedIn or Twitter (@greenberglyons), or through my website: www.marissagreenberg.com

Thank you for joining me today!


Gawandi, Atul. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010.

Greenberg, Marissa. "Teaching." Literature on the Move, WordPress. https://marissagreenberg.com/teaching/

Greenberg, Marissa, and Elizabeth Williamson. "Rethinking Productivity during COVID-19," Academic Leader, 6 July 2020, https://www.academic-leader.com/topics/promotion-tenure/rethinking-productivity-in-the-era-of-covid-19/ [For PDF, click here]

Yeager, D. S., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., Brzustoski, P., Master, A., Hessert, W. T., Williams, M. E., & Cohen, G. L. "Breaking the cycle of mistrust: Wise interventions to provide critical feedback across the racial divide," Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143, no. 2 (2014): 804–824. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0033906


Created with images by Aaron Burden - "untitled image" • Nathan Hobbs - "untitled image" • William Moreland - "untitled image" • Yustinus Tjiuwanda - "untitled image" • Marcos Luiz Photograph - "Worship" • Dimitry Anikin - "Typewriter at the Shakespeare and Company book store in Paris, France." • Ivan Aleksic - "From the exhibition "The Nineties: A Glossary of Migrations" https://www.muzej-jugoslavije.org/en/exhibition/devedesete-recnik-migracija/ " • William Daigneault - "untitled image" • Alec Favale - "untitled image" • Stephanie Klepacki - "untitled image" • Domenico Loia - "Unsplash Power" • Ksenia Makagonova - "Increase focus, knowledge, and memory."