Monday, April 14, 2008

End-of-year reflections

My friends have finally left. It was a fabulous visit. It was like a mini-holiday for me, too. So decadent...

And so begins my spring, now that classes are over. The number of things I have to get done in the next few weeks feels a little mind-boggling...not included on the list in the sidebar is the amount of research-related reading I have to get done. Plus activities related to the co-edited volume.

But before I move into this new mode, I feel it might be useful for me to reflect on my first academic year at this institution. What went well? What didn't? Where does that leave me?

- My first-year course in the winter term - Intro Part 2 - was a grand success. I was very happy with the readings and the assignments. I think the students learned a lot, and they certainly are enthusiastic, with many of them thinking of going on to do a minor in the subject. I will be keeping the course very nearly the same for next year.
- Assigning "critical questions" due in every class in my Theory course worked really well. Students used this forum to really reflect quite deeply on the material. They also always had questions to contribute to discussion. This was definitely a winner.
- Using a "five days' grace across the whole term, no questions asked" lateness policy was A Very Good Thing. It allowed students some leeway in end-of-term crunch time, allowed for unexpected medical and family crises, and kept me from hearing sob stories - sob stories are my greatest weakness. Students also expressed great appreciation for this strategy.
- Literature review assignments for upper-year students were a good idea.

- I made a grave error in designing assessment in my first-term, first-year course. There was much too much paper coming in, and I felt completely drowned in weekly assignments for a 75-person class.
- Now I know that I cannot handle a "random grading scheme," because I felt bad and ended up reading and commenting on even those assignments I wasn't supposed to grade.
- I over-assigned reading in the first term - especially in the first-year course in the fall term - because I had never before taught (or really taken, as an undergrad) a course that meets twice a week instead of once a week.
- I wasn't sufficiently punitive on the issue of citation styles. Next year I'm implementing a much stricter policy about this.
- Doing two conferences within three weeks of each other, whilst I'm teaching, is too stressful.
- I cannot put on a week of events on such a grand scale as I did this March. This took far, far too much time. Next year, one or two heavy-hitter events, that'll be all.
- On that note, I LOATHE giving media interviews and hope to avoid them in future - I don't think I'm an asset to the university in this regard. At All. So it's best that I shut up.

All in all, it's been quite a year. So much has gone on - Mr. K's death, accidents, health scares, other deaths. The learning curve of this new job. I can only hope that next year will be significantly calmer.


Thoroughly Educated said...

Wow, I'm impressed that with everything else that's been going on lately you can do this kind of clearsighted review of how things went pedagogically. I'd be really interested in hearing more specifics about how you framed the critical questions assignment and the five-day grace period rule. With the critical questions, were students to come up with the questions themselves? And with the grace period, did you ask students to notify you if they were takin advantage of it, or did each assignment effectively have a rolling due-date? I'd be tempted to try both of those ideas next year, but I want to it it in a way that's proven to work!

kermitthefrog said...

Indeed-it sounds like you've processed a lot from the year, and it's only just ended!

lil'rumpus said...

cupcakes!! you got cupcakes!!! that is excellent and a sign that you are making an impact. seriously, the times that students have made that sort of effort in my classes have been the times when I have seen them move on to graduate degrees and such. not kidding. at all.

Brigindo said...

Wow what a great perspective to have at the end of the year. It sounds like you learned a lot and next year should be much smoother. I think I need to do this for myself but I'm hoping I can also learn a few lessons from you as well.

Sisyphus said...

Yay for a break! And for cupcakes.

Would you be willing to say something about the lit-review assignments?