Classically Inclined

July 18, 2012

New assignments – final reflections

Filed under: Uncategorized — lizgloyn @ 9:05 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Well, the end of the teaching year has come and gone, so it’s more than time to have a last look at the new assignments I put in place this year and to see how they went. I have to say that I don’t think my feelings have changed much since I did the mid-year review, but it’s good to close the circle. I also wonder whether the reason my thoughts haven’t changed much is because I didn’t do enough myself as a teacher to change what was happening, or whether the way I incorporated the assignments in the first place simply wasn’t right.

I should note that although I picked up some new courses in the spring term (most significantly the Augustan and imperial literature core course), I did not make any innovations in how I was teaching those courses. (The additional workload may also explain why I didn’t make more of an effort with the new assessment strategies I felt were failing after the first term.) For the Augustan course, this was a simple matter of survival as there was a lot to prepare and cover, and mastery of the material was more important than innovative teaching with a course that was compulsory for so many students. However, I think I may have missed a trick with Latin IV, where I could have done some more interesting things with the teaching and how I chose to approach language instruction. That said, I did pick an unusual text (some of Seneca’s Epistulae Morales), and given all the other things I had on my plate for spring, that was probably enough extra innovation to work with.

  • Learning journals/reflective journals: the update on these continued to be poor, particularly the reflective journals for the religion lecture, and I’m afraid I wasn’t proactive enough a personal tutor to keep pressing my first years on their learning journals. I do think that this has got some potential as a tool, in a pastoral rather than a teaching setting, and I need to think about how best to optimise that, but I suspect I’m not going to go back to the journal as a teaching tool until I’ve seriously rethought it and read around a bit more about UK-specific successes with the strategy.
  • Blog posts: I continue to be really pleased with the way that these worked to get students thinking about secondary literature and engaging with it properly. Some of my colleagues have done other interesting things with blogs to get students to engage with primary sources in a similarly reflective way; perhaps next time I’ll think about doing something like that as well, if there’s an appropriate source to use. But I’m delighted to have finally found a way to get students to critically engage with secondary literature in a fairly deep and thoughtful manner that helps them develop the sorts of skills I want them using as they deal with that body of material in a supportive and useful environment. The one thing I do want to think about is how to get students commenting on each other’s blogs more – they were good at posting the original entries and at discussing responses in seminar, but less at engaging in discussion on-line.
  • The Critical Incident Questionnaire: my use of this has really made me think that I need to do more with it. I want to try using it with other classes and see what sort of responses I get. I’ve asked the students from the epic seminar to give me some feedback, but I think there’s some scope here for a bit of concentrated research and thinking about it as a strategy within classics more broadly. For that, I’ll need more students to experiment on… but this definitely feels like a technique with some potential.
  • Twitter: now, I’ve had a bit of a volte-face on this. The introduction of hash tags for each course definitely didn’t work – but over the last term, I’ve had more and more IAA students following me on Twitter. The Latin IV students have been particularly vocal, including one student who used the medium to arrange a pre-exam meeting to go over some passages we hadn’t got to in class.  I know my colleague in Law Martin George uses Twitter a lot to communicate with his students off-site (as it were); I’m wondering whether this more informal kind of contact, where students find you if they want you, is a more useful way of encouraging continued thinking about the subject than trying to impose formal hashtags and assessments which work better in an American-style assessment system (where students can hypothetically be given credit for participating in out-of-classroom discussions – much harder to work into a UK marking scheme, especially whilst in a one year position).

What I end up trying next year on the basis of this will depend on what I end up doing next year… so stay tuned!

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4 Comments »

  1. The Critical Incident Questionnaire looks useful. At Newman we do a mid-course evaluation, just asking students to write down one thing they like about the course and one thing they’d improve, and it was fairly useful, though as limited as these things always are (e.g. it was good to know the students wanted to study myth for future course planning, but I couldn’t actually put more myth into the history of the late republic, which was already full enough!)

    Comment by Juliette — July 18, 2012 @ 11:43 am | Reply

    • The CIQs are a development on the one minute papers which I use in all my classes – I find continuous feedback through the term really helpful, not to mention reassuring, and students responded very positively to that amount of feedback. It really does depend what you’re after out of the process, though – the longer term future planning stuff is also great to get, but one minute papers and CIQs don’t record that so well.

      Comment by lizgloyn — July 20, 2012 @ 5:36 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Liz! Re blogs: at a Uni where I am external examiner, some courses actually make commenting on a specified number of posts/responding to set number of comments on ones own posts, part of what’s assessed. Seems to generate really interesting work (tho of course some students do it in v perfunctory way). I’m planning to see if I can develop something comparable (tho with my own agenda!).

    Comment by Diana Spencer (@DianaJSpencer) — July 20, 2012 @ 1:39 pm | Reply

    • I think working the blogs into a formal mode of assessment really is the only way to get complete buy-in from students – but given that formal assessment in the UK means doing things like changing module descriptions and has quite a lot of paperwork that needs doing well in advance of term, it’s not something I can easily do right now. When I’m more settled, I would definitely plan to incorporate blogging into formal assessment, but the stars just aren’t right at the moment.

      Comment by lizgloyn — July 20, 2012 @ 5:34 pm | Reply


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