Friday, September 30, 2005

The Limitations of Office Hours

This week students attended my office hours for the first time! I emailed my group of 43 students that I was changing my "office hours" from questions and answer period or tutor time to discussion groups. I informed them that I would be available to answer questions still but wanted to engage in discussion of things that interest them in relation to the subject matter. I also let them know that I would love to use their discussion as the source for their essay questions. This gave them the opportunity to let me know what they found interesting and what they might be interested in writing about. I feel like this is the most critically pedagogically correct thing I have done. I let the mandatory assignment come from the experiences and interests of the students. I feel in this way that I will not be giving them a starting point but that they have decided where they will enter into discussion. I had three students come to the first meeting and 4 come to the second one. I suspect that I will have more next week when the assignment goes out. I am also encouraged that this method brought in the students. They came because they wanted to have a say in their assignments and possibly wanted the opportunity to discuss what they are learning about. I hope that in this way I have in the words of Paulo Friere "demystify" the student TA relationship and brought us all to the point of being learners as opposed to me being the source for all information.

I did learn that this young group of people in their first semester/year are not completely comfortable in dialogue and that they were very quiet. I truly needed to develop more in depth and probing questions so that they could join in as they felt comfortable. I hope that once they have written the first paper they will come to discuss and have a more confident opinion or contribution. I have three students committed to coming to discussion after their papers are turned in. This is helpful in determining the format of a future course. I may be able to do some lecture and present the information required by standards but also engage students in smaller discussion groups to engage the materials in a critical way. This is my attempt to code the observations I am participating in. While it may be simplified I am attempting to code them in terms of teaching methods and course structures.

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