Showing posts from February, 2015

Red Coat, Blue Coat

It's never a bad idea to do a brief check-in with classes around a month into the semester.  My standard procedure is to take about 10 minutes at the start of a class (always the start, never the end) and have students anonymously jot down answers to four questions:
What idea in this class has intrigued, scandalized, amused or confused you so far?  Why?Have any of the ideas in this course cropped up out of class (in conversation, in relation to other subjects, or just as a thought you reflected upon)?  If so, when?  How?What's one thing I could change that would help you in the course?What's one thing you could change?I type up all of the responses onto one sheet and share it at the next class meeting, circling any points of consensus.  This information serves multiple functions.  The first two questions help me gauge how much deep learning is going on, especially the second one.  Sometimes students will tell you really interesting stories about how they are applying the id…

Operation Overload and Losing Your Muchness

The standard teaching load at my institution is 4/4.  In other words we are contractually obligated to teach eight three-credit sections per academic year.  For various reasons, however, most of us end up teaching an overload.  Maybe the department needs to add a section to accommodate demand; maybe we couldn't hire an adjunct (or one quit at the last minute).  There are any number of reasons you go on overload.  Many of my colleagues just like the extra money.

Me, not so much.

Adding one more course means an additional 30 papers to grade twice a week.  It means that many more students to keep track of and worry about. And teaching overload nearly always sinks me.  It isn't that any one course is tough; it's just hard for me to teach well when (as the Red Queen said in Alice Through the Looking Glass) it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place.

I spent nearly the entirety of last weekend grading student essays because my stack had ominously reached trip…

Editing Peer Editing

I have always disliked peer editing day, yet I keep trying to get it right.  By peer editing I mean the practice of having students drag in their drafts for each other to critique.  Here are my major beefs: most students don't like having to read each others' work, they are hesitant to offer anything beyond some bland, gormless feedback, and they generally have a hard time staying on task.

I've looked at lots of different rubrics, feedback forms and ways to structure the task, but it never seems to me that it's all that helpful.  Today, unfortunately, is peer editing day.  So of course I am trying still another method for getting students to help each other write better essays.   Here's what I came up with (and props to my excellent colleague in our Center for Teaching Excellence for giving me the gist of this idea):

You will be placed into groups of three.The goal is to spend 20-25 minutes on each person’s paper.Two people read the paper at a time.Then the readers…