ACTOR, note taking, and a job interview

Earlier this year, I found out that there were going to be some cuts in our department due to some enrollment factors. Visa rule changes for international students had made it easier for those who didn’t need English language training to get into the college. The numbers of students registered for our academic English language program had dropped significantly and I would not be called back as a regular (ie. permanent) instructor in the fall.

Fast forward a few months to the start of June when I received an email that my application for work in another department had cleared the first step and I was being called in for an interview. The department I had applied for supports all students at the college, domestic and international, through helping them with college skills such as writing essays, referencing, and note taking. The email stated that I was to prepare a one-page handout on the topic of note taking and a 30-minute lesson to accompany it. I was to present my handout and my lesson plan to the committee, taking them through my rationale for why I created it.

My interview wasn’t for a couple of weeks, so I knew I had a bit of time to work on the handout and the lesson plan. As is my usual process of creating something for class, I tried looking over what was already out there and what I had used in my previous classes. I wasn’t overly impressed with what I found, but I hadn’t come up with anything on my own that struck me as particularly interesting or helpful. One night, I woke up at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I started thinking about the handout and then the ideas started to flow. I came up the with basic framework of a lesson plan and handout, so I went back to sleep knowing I could work on it in the morning.

Thankfully, I remembered everything the next morning and started to work on it. I knew I still had time to put something together, so I chipped away at it for a while each day until I started to notice that I had a lot more than what was needed for the interview. I decided I would go all out and create a whole lesson, including materials, that I could use in class later on. I also wanted to create something I could give to someone else and they would be able to teach the class without my intervention. I decided to make it available freely to everyone by using a Creative Commons licence, just in case someone actually wanted to use it. This is the result.

The one-page handout that started it all

I wanted students to realize that what happens outside of class, before and after the lecture, is likely more important that what happens during class. I used the acronym of ACTOR to help them remember the different stages. I then used the analogy of a theatre production during the class to help tie it all together. I used two short lectures as controlled practice which can be done both in and outside of class time. If you are interested in using the lesson and the accompanying materials, here are the different parts:

Lesson plan

PowerPoint slides

Main handout

During the lecture handout (homework version)

During the lecture handout (during class version)

Soil biology questions

Soil biology example notes

Soil biology answer key

Soil biology transcript

Edpuzzle handout

Haptics practice handout

Haptics example notes

Haptics transcript

I would love to get any feedback you might have about the lesson plan or the materials. If you end up using it in class, please let me know how it goes. Please feel free to share it with anyone you like. I plan on doing more of these in the future, so let me know what you think might be helpful.

Oh, and to end things off where it all started, I ended up being successful in the interview. I think they thought I was a bit crazy doing all this work, but I think they appreciated the fact I wanted to do this not just for myself, but for my colleagues. To really end things off well, enrollment went back up enough that I ended up being recalled to my regular position. It is like nothing ever happened. 🙂


  1. I’m not surprised that you went all out. 🙂 Thank so much for sharing your lesson plan and materials. I’m so happy that you ended up back in your regular position.

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