Classically Inclined

October 1, 2012

Syllabi-wrangling – the 2012-13 edition

Things have been so busy here that I haven’t had the chance to talk very much about what I am actually doing this year in terms of my teaching. I have three major courses that are swinging into action this term – the Roman Novel first year seminar again; intermediate Greek language; and a lecture option on the Roman Life Course. Now, I’ve been thinking a bit about the new forms of assessment and interaction I worked with last year, and have come up with some changes and alterations for this year’s teaching:

  • Learning logs: I am going to have another go at doing these, particularly with my first year students as I think there’s a real benefit to using them and getting good study habits established early. This is made a bit easier because all of the department’s seminars and projects now last for two hours rather than one, meaning there’s a bit more time not only to have decent discussion but also to include some more pastoral-style checking in, particularly at the first year level. So I am going to incorporate this into our weekly sessions and see whether that makes the learning log a more effective tool. I am, however, dropping the reflective journal from the option course, given how unpopular it was last year.
  • Blog posts: instead, I’m going to use the method from last year’s epic seminar in the option course.  This time around I’ve got twenty students enrolled rather than seventy, which should make using this kind of micro-format a bit simpler and let everyone get involved. As I don’t have a seminar this year, I’m suspect I’m going treat the option as a slightly over-large seminar, so we’ll see how well that goes.
  • CIQs: given that the numbers for the Roman Life Course are fairly small, I’m going to take the plunge and carry on using the Critical Incident Questionnaire with the students. I will admit to being a bit nervous about this – an option is a different kind of fowl to a seminar, after all, and there are slightly more students here than I thought I was comfortable with for using the CIQ. But we shall see how it goes, particularly as I want the comparative material on how well the method works with a larger group for whenever I eventually come to write something on this. I also want to be better at keeping records of student responses – I suspect the departmental scanner will come in handy!
  • Twitter: as I said in my reflections at the end of last year, I’m in the process of reconsidering how best to use Twitter in class. I am still requiring my first year students to use it as a way to keep up to date with developments in the discipline and cultivate a classical identity; however, I think I want to move towards a more social-media-esque attitude to it rather than a formal class discussion backchannel. I do know that a lot of my now-second years are still on it and are still using it for various purposes, so at least that is heartening. I’ve started a proper list of staff and students currently at the IAA, so hopefully that should also provide some potential for students to discover each other.
  • Discussion: I’ve also made some broad outline tweaks to the Roman Novel syllabus – after teaching the course twice, I think I’ve worked out what I wasn’t doing enough of (deep engagement with the primary texts), and I’m trying a more student-driven approach to discussion to see if that remedies the problem. I haven’t tried student-led discussion in my teaching very much, apart from a couple of sessions in epic at the very end of last term, so I’m curious to see how this works out.

The one course missing from all of this is, of course, intermediate Greek! I figured that getting to grips with a new textbook was going to be enough of a teaching challenge for the time being – we’ll see if I’ve changed my mind by the Christmas break…

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