Classically Inclined

October 14, 2011

Taking risks in the classroom and listening to the CIQ

Filed under: Teaching — lizgloyn @ 4:45 pm
Tags: , ,

I took a really big risk in my epic seminar today. I wasn’t sure if it was going to pay off, to be honest – but the whole point of trying a CIQ approach is to actually listen to what your students are telling you, be honest with them about the pros and cons they’re bringing before you, and actually try to do something about it. The point of using this particular approach in a seminar setting was that I felt that I had the confidence I could have a proper discussion about issues raised with a smaller group (as opposed to, say, my lecture group of 65+), and thus manage what needed to be changed.

So in last week’s CIQs for epic, I had two members of the seminar report that the moment when they had felt most distanced from class activity and most puzzled or confused was when discussion had gone too fast. Both people reported the speed of discussion twice on their forms, and one of them suggested perhaps trying to focus on key topics rather than having such broad discussion. Now, I thought that my notes were the key topics, but the fact that the same issue reported twice gave me pause.

I thought a lot about whether or not to bring this to the class – should I just adjust my own notes and hope this fixed the problem? But then I faced up to it – if I was to be using the CIQs properly, I actually had to discuss the issue with the students. So, with some trepidation, at the start of class I laid out the issue, and invited student responses.

We actually had a productive discussion – the two members of the seminar who had written the CIQs identified themselves and elaborated their cases, and we worked out some strategies that we’d try to see if we could overcome those issues (which, I hope, will also work for any other student in the class who experiences the same thing). The problem of speed did not appear again in this week’s CIQs. One person responded feeling most distanced from class during the administrative discussion – but one person reported that the moment they felt was most affirming was when that issue was brought up. They had been feeling the same way, but now felt more engaged with the seminar.

Classroom dynamics may seem like a small thing, or even an impossible thing to measure, but I’m slowly learning that taking a bit of a risk pays off. I’ve solved a problem that could have rumbled on unnoticed through term, and hopefully if it becomes a problem again, I’ll be able to spot it and sort it out before it actually gets to the stage of someone feeling that they’re falling behind. It’s rather frightening to put this sort of thing out there in the classroom, because it means me putting down some authority – but if that means students have a better learning environment, then right now the payoff feels worth it.

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