M4–FIrst Impressions (only) from Michael

(Baby steps, Michael–micro-movements! Calm down.)

I took approximately forever getting my syllabus draft posted, and am scrambling today to catch up with the M4 readings, so I have only initial impressions to share.

One issue I keep coming back to is that many of the ideas and tools (conceptual and technological) we are gaining here may be differently useful in different courses. I keep encountering ideas that I’d like to keep in mind for revising other courses. (Really hoping I can discipline myself not to lose these intuitions in the onrush of regular-school-year responsibilities, but to keep studying and trying adjustments and innovations across my teaching–as they suit. Fragile idealism.)

For now, though, I’ve chosen a course that I find stubbornly resistant to some of the vision being shared here: I won’t detail it too much, but it’s a very teacher-centered course, simply because I’m trying to do two very unusual things in the field–integrating Western and non-Western literatures at each step and linking literature to history through the practices of materialist mentality history (okay, that one’s less rare, and yes, I went to grad school in the eighties, what’s it to ya?) [wink]. Neither approach is self-evident; I need to do a lot of the initial spadework for the students. I do try to be transparent about my methods, and will gladly use the online format to engage them in miniature instances and problems so they can at least get a feel for these analytic techniques–but only up to a point.

I feel I can’t expect students to spend the whole semester generating new knowledge according to my preferred analytic methods, working upward from the primary and even secondary data without slowing down the course to the point that it’s not fulfilling its purpose as a survey. This is where I split off from the skill-centered focus we’re reading about–I get it, I do, but this course resists the shift because of the requirements of coverage: I still need to race them through the Louvre, as we in the survey-course biz say.

So I’m trying to be patient and to believe that more of this will be applicable over a larger shift in all my teaching.

To that end, I think I’ll always keep Bloom’s taxonomy to hand–it’s an old reliable for me (although I hadn’t encountered his work in the affective domain, which I need to think about NOW.)

The two articles offered as “Primers” in Assessment both held my attention and seem useful as introductions to larger questions; I do wonder how much they are addressed to public-school instruction as well as upper level, and keep imagining a subtextual dialogue with standardized testing here. I found my mind shifting, in the Sewell, Frith, and Colvin article, to larger departmental learning assessment goals and the dialogue of my courses with them–so I want to go back and take those thoughts further.

The other articles seem to be for me to keep and apply as I approach other courses, although the article on student self-assessment read to me as a nudge to keep my grading standards crystal-clear (is that the same as transparent?)

2 thoughts on “M4–FIrst Impressions (only) from Michael

  1. I agree that different types of courses pose different challenges. Ideally we will all get to live somewhere within walking distance of the Louvre, and spend a few hours in the museum everyday for two months – at least that’s how it seems to me 🙂 – but alas, we also have the Eiffel and the Seine on the day’s schedule. I sometimes also question the belief that student-centered approach – or superficially student-centered approach – is necessarily always better. In my language classes, students almost always tell me that they learn better when I explain the grammar to them rather than I give them examples and help them develop their own understanding. They would rather simply listen to me lecture. That is also what I usually do when it comes to grammar study, because it is more efficient than the seemingly student-centered alternative.

  2. Michael, I totally hear you. Letting go of the professor-as-referential-axis in my courses is baffling, and at times overwhelming. Resistance from a particular course also rings a bell, and I can’t wait for us to sit and trade notes when we set these wheels in motion. Kudos for your brave facing these challenges!

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