Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

End of Semester Grad School Checklist

Your Coursework
  • Everyone is tired at the end of the semester. And it's tempting to just get through, get done, and then take a break. And you should. But, now's also a good time to revisit your degree plan. I created mine my first semester, then color coded it (and adapted each semester with course availability). This ensures you stick to a plan, see the big picture, and graduate in a reasonable time.
  • Talk to everyone. I straddle the medieval/early modern divide, and my dissertation director is an early modernist, but one of my go to professors to run things by is an ALS prof. Another is an Anglo-Saxonists. Use the faculty you feel comfortable talking to as sounding boards.
  • Make your courses work towards your final goals. They should built your thesis or your comp reading lists, or parts of your dissertation.

Your Dissertation/Thesis 
  • Forward progress is all that matters. Let me repeat that- forward progress is all that matters. Each semester you should be making progress towards your masters thesis or dissertation. Choose courses that will feed into these projects. Talk to your professors about tailoring course/seminar papers towards your topic.
  • Talk to your professors about tailoring your papers for specific publications. As much as they will let you write papers as articles for submission, do so. If not, ask them if they'll look at revisions so you can submit. Aim to submit everything you write. And I don't mean send crap out. I mean aim to write things worth sending out. Aim to clarify your scholarship, what you add to the conversation.
  • Plan out your next year according to conferences in your field where you can try out ideas. I was taught that the process was conferences paper (so your argument was foregrounded) then once you had feedback you expanded into an article and sent out. Conferences also allow you to build networks. With rare exceptions, I don't see the value in presenting at grad student only or regional conferences (unless it's something like PCA or MLA).

Your Teaching
  • I believe reflection is key to improving your skills as a teacher, creating a good class culture, and having a successful class. I have students reflect through surveys, and emails every four weeks in my class. My end of semester reflection is my favorite though. Examples can be found here.  Not only will you hear from them in their letters honestly about what you can improve but from their memes and gifs you'll have things pointed out you weren't aware of. Use these things to reflect before you teach again.
  • While it's all clear in your mind, make a copy of your current syllabus. Go through and make notes on it based on what you did this semester- readings to replace, assignments to redesign, weeks to switch. I do this all semester, but it's worth doing now if you haven't do that when you go to teach the course again, you won't have to remember all the brilliant fixes you had.
  • Offer to give students information on classes in your department if they still have courses to take. I am teaching an Early English Survey in the Fall, and inspired by something I saw @kiapple do I created a movie for it. I showed this to my current ENGL 220 students in case they need/want to take another English class. I also offered to talk to them about other English courses, professors, etc. Support your department and encourage enrollment.

  • Be clear and reasonable with your students about when you'll turn around final assignments/grades. If you're not going to lock yourself in your room and grade for 48 hours straight, don't give them an unrealistic deadline. Take the time you need.
  • Electronic or paper submission for final projects: Your choice, but you might want to ask your students. Are they more likely to read the feedback if it's electronic? Or do they really just care about the grade you put in at that point? If so, be clear about how long you'll hold onto papers.
 So what are your end of semester must-dos?

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