Abandoning Ship

Torpedoed ShipSomewhat like Simon, I have been looking back at the recent past and making adjustments. For this semester, I have once again ABCed myself. Here is some of what I’ve come up with:

Abandoned the Gerkhania simulation. I invented Gerkhania several years ago for my annual comparative politics course. I was rather proud of it, but it never worked well, whether as an exercise in the difficulties of creating a constitution in a multi-ethnic state or as the basis for in-class team presentations. Students’ policy recommendations were always muddled and vague. I might adapt the description of Gerkhania for part of the final exam, but that will be the only way I’ll use it.

Began using a syllabus quiz in all of my courses.  I previously objected to resuming this practice because I didn’t think it appropriate to make a syllabus quiz worth five percent of the final grade. Now that I have gone to a 1,000 point grading scale, it’s easy to create a ten-question quiz worth only one percent of the grade. Also the close reading exercise on the syllabus, which is static content for students, took up too much class time. The quizzes are online and machine graded, so my only effort is to create them.

Continue to paste information about possible course changes into “future” copies of my syllabi as the semester progresses. This enables me to conveniently record thoughts about the highs and lows of a course in real time rather than try to dredge up memories several months after the fact. I have also found it to be an excellent way to compile a reference list of readings to potentially assign the next time I teach a course. When it’s something on a website, I grab a copy with Evernote, file it in my notebook for that course, and mention that in the future syllabus as well.

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