Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Teaching Early Shakespeare Step by Step: Week 13 Reassessing

This is the time in the semester that is both a lot of fun for me, and disheartening.
It's a lot of fun because students are fully in the groove with the class, they know how it works, and this is often the time where they start feeling really comfortable experimenting, and stretching themselves. I always wish they could get themselves to this point sooner. It's great.

Several weeks ago one of the check in surveys asked for a discussion board where students could just talk about the play and share things. This has been a great addition, and the thing I've loved best is that they've found some great graphics and memes.
I use memes and gifs a lot in class, so this makes me happy.

I find this time in the semester disheartening too though.
Students who asked for extensions fall off the planet, never check back in, and when you nudge them, you hear nothing back but days later get an official withdrawal form.
I know that a lot of times this is a combination of factors. And I shouldn't take it personally. But I do. I go out of my way to encourage students- let them know how they can make stuff up, how much of their grade is left, how they can still pass. But despite this, it seems that the number who check in and use this to their advantage are in the minority, that the majority just rather withdraw. I wish I knew why, but I'm also working on not taking this personally.
I also wish there was some way to know why students have just checked out, if there is anything more I could do.

But I have the feeling I'm spending a lot more time on these worries than maybe I should.

Since the class is winding down, I realized over the weekend that we're finishing Titus Andronicus this week, and then the students have two weeks to focus on their final papers/projects. That was one of the comments on our last check in, that having the week papers were due JUST to work on them, share drafts, and get feedback was really helpful. It's weird to think that I'll blink and the class will be over.
We end with Titus because it really is something you need to work up to I think. I gave a trigger warning for it, and let students opt out of the assignment that dealt with production images. Only one did, but a few mentioned in their posts that they appreciated the warning. It's been really cool to hear what they have to say about the affect of the play- how for this one SEEING it and READING it are two very different experiences. I love reading those types of reflections.
Because the next few weeks are light work wise, and because I want to encourage students to experiment with projects as their final assessment, I'm letting students revise their presentations if they want- for a higher grade, but also as a way to explore or revisit ideas before the final paper/project.
I know the end of the semester is busy, and some will prioritize other things, but I wanted to give them another chance. Likewise the last couple of weeks have optional discussion boards if people want to earn some extra credit.

Given all the changes I've made this semester, both content and pedagogically, it'll be interesting to read their end of semester letter to students, and see what the university surveys say. I feel like I made a lot of positive changes but I've also gotten complaints, like not liking the web 2.0 tools and gifs I use. I'm not really sure what to do with those, because my initial reaction is to ignore them as they seem to convey a misunderstanding of what online classes SHOULD be. But again, it's been something I've probably spent more time worrying over than I should.

I am looking forward to the time the next couple of weeks to email/talk/conference with students about final papers and projects, to grade revised work, and see what they have to say. This time to think, time to learn, I think is valuable, and seeing what they come up with for assessment is always pretty cool. A lot of times they just knock me out.
So, we'll see.
Anyone have anything they're looking forward to in particular about the end of their semester?

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