Some final thoughts on my globalization course this semester:
First, the community partnership with a local non-profit organization might have worked better in a research methods course. Because I structure my courses around daily reading and writing assignments, they are effectively hybrid in design. Initial encounters with and applications of knowledge happen outside the classroom. This makes it easier for to cut content from a course if needed, and in a community partnership, something planned before the semester begins always needs to be abandoned midstream.
As I mentioned in Part 4 and Part 5 of this series, this time around the ethnography assignment was what got left by the side of the road. But my decision was driven by the lack of quality data gathered by students, not because the time that students spent working on behalf of the community partner was greater than expected. I knew going into the course that I would not be creating a bunch of Margaret Meads, but the classroom instruction on field interviewing did not produce the level of proficiency necessary to complete an assignment that students had never before encountered.
A lack of facility in working with data also showed up in the infographic assignments that replaced the ethnography. Students’ infographics included percentages calculated from the data they had collected, but the percentages often did not reflect informative observations about local patterns of food consumption.
Though this course was 100-level, the students in it ranged from first-year to seniors. So the lessons here for me are, first, that I should not assume that the students who enroll in this course have any prior training in working with data, and second, that a project of this nature requires a full semester devoted to teaching research skills, not a brief introduction to it wedged into a course whose focus is on acquiring topical knowledge. In sum, I tried to do too much within the confines of a single course.
Second, if I think students should gain a better understanding of community, I need to do a better job of getting them to define and work with the concept. The maps of the local community that students drew at the end of the semester did not vary much from the maps they drew at the beginning, and their discussion of community in the end-of-semester meta-cognitive assignment was often unfocused. To be fair, I now think the prompt I created for the assignment was itself needlessly complex — one of my bad habits.
So, as usual, when I teach this course again next year, it will be back to the drawing board for more changes.
Links to all posts in this series: