Mid-Semester Ruminations

Thinking things over.
Thinking things over.

A few thoughts on my teaching, having just passed the mid-point of the spring semester:

Students have almost to a person stopped taking notes. I don’t know if this phenomenon is caused by a lack of will, ability, or a combination of both, but I suspect it has its roots in the K-12 system. Or my employer is simply drawing students who are not as academically well-prepared for college. Ten years ago perhaps a quarter of my students wrote notes in class. Now I’m lucky if it’s one out of fifteen. I refuse to periodically collect and somehow grade students’ notebooks. An alternative might be open-notebook, end-of-class quizzes. It’s additional work on my end — more stuff to grade and I would need to think of question or two while teaching — but it might be a way of generating the desired behavior.

I’m still less than happy with my comparative politics course. Previous travails are discussed here and here. I knew that this semester would be no different than previous ones in terms of class size, so I reduced the number of themes to three. But even just three teams proved too many in a class that ended up with only ten students. The team-based learning activities simply get too awkward, so for next year I’m thinking of ditching the whole modular architecture approach and marching students through a more traditional delivery of the topic.

I’m scheduled to teach economic development in the fall. Previously I taught this course on a MWF schedule, but next semester it will be MW. I start preparing for upcoming courses in the preceding semester, and a few weeks ago I fell into my usual routine when converting a syllabus from three days per week to two — struggling over what readings and responses to eliminate to squeeze discussion of content into a third fewer class periods. Then I realized that I should just retain all the assignments due on Fridays. The course won’t officially be “hybrid” or “blended,” but students will be have to engage with content as frequently as  previous students, and there will be more fodder for class discussion on Mondays.

One thought on “Mid-Semester Ruminations

  1. Interesting. I found that 10 or so years ago few students took notes. But the last 3-5 years I taught more students were taking notes. I can’t explain that!

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