Monday, August 06, 2007

getting started (Again) for the second time

I cannot believe I let and entire semester go by without reflecting on anything I had done all semester. Along with blogging again about all this I have made a number of changes that I think are pedagogically informed, yet I am still worried about them...

1. I noticed on my reviews by students that very few of them refer to the syllabus. When I was a student I hardly ever refered to my syllabus either but then harder classes sprung up and I was behind the learning curve. I realized if I wanted students to use the syllabus more I needed to make it work their while. Now the syllabus contains a detailed schedule of what will happen each week along with outlining assignments and when they are due. ( I have to admit I think this change comes from time spent. I never could have done this my first two semesters teaching. I want to remain flexible and reflective, continuing to make the class form around students needs and interests but I also need to provide some structure so they feel comfortable and confident)

2. "They seem to be missing so many skills"
each semester grading papers seems to get more and more disappointing. So many students have great ideas but struggle to express them. Organization is rarely there and most seem rushed. I have noticed as well that often there is no intended point to be made in their papers. they will write forever about how a work of art looks and never actually discuss why they are talking about it. This is true in group discussion as well. So I have created and intro packet and made some room for a week of building up some key skills. We are going to walk through observation skills, note taking skills, discussion practice and writing tips. I am sure that I cannot fix essay writing for my students in one week but it seems like it is a good idea to get the ball rolling early. Maybe this will get them comfortable in asking for help and in general getting a good picture of what is expected of them.

3. course mapping for the students?
Our school is heavily engaged at the moment in course mapping and aligning my course assignments and activities to the course objectives and outcomes to the institutional goals and objectives. I create actual paper maps of this process (ah I am such a visual learner) to show how all these pieces connect. I think it is time for the students to see these. I am working on a more friendly student version so that they can see where we are going with different activities. these have been time consuming and I will be posting drafts of them soon.

I am unsure of the outcomes from these changes but I am eager to see what will happen.


Doctor Pion said...

Thanks for the positive comments on my blog about new teachers. I'm getting started for the Nth time, but still looking at some of those things you are talking about. Telling them where you are going (a name for it is "pre teaching") is an important tool. For example:

"Next week we will look at the sudden appearance of perspective in western art. (compare picture from 1400 to one from 1500) Did you know that europeans learned about geometry and optics from Iraq, by way of Spain? Take a look at Chapter ... over the weekend."

On writing: Here is a link to an article from last spring that will take you to an earlier one of mine, several of Dr. Crazy's (english prof), and one by Scott (ditto). There is surely a connection between the various types of "close reading" that we were talking about and the critical analysis you seek.

You are correct in your conclusion that they don't know how to do this. You are wrong in assuming it is a problem just because you are at a CC. Dr. Crazy teaches upper division students.

Oh, yes, one other thing. My syllabus has a very detailed description of the course structure, but the only way I get my students to look at it is to assign a HW problem from it. Seriously. I give them test scores and they have to compute a grade.

Sarah said...

pre teaching, that is a new term for me. It is a great example though. I suppose then my challenge is just coming up with some interesting headlines. When possible I like to try to include some pop culture references since so often they have their roots in art history. That might be a good way to bring those together.

An interesting article, I think my response will have to be its own post.

Doctor Pion said...

Pre-teaching is not a headline for the class, it is a preview of coming attractions. Like reading before class, it helps provide the hook that the new material will hang on. Showing how it fits into your "map" is another way to do this.

One other suggestion about writing: Make contacts elsewhere in the college. A CC is not like a university, with each sub-discipline in its own tower so that even different branches of physics might only see each other once a week, if that. Seek out the writing instructors for ideas on getting their writing organized. That is where Dr. Crazy is coming from.

You might also collect info from your students on their previous english classes. Our hum classes have 2 sem of english as a pre-req, but yours might not require any college writing. Big difference.

AdjunctProf said...

Pre-teaching does a couple of things: provides a semblance of structure to the course; front-loads questions for the next class; and counts as another impression or iteration of content. I like to include my learning objectives for the next class as a form of motivation.

Good discussion.