This post was supposed to be written weeks ago but oh well...better late than never.
It is inspired by a friend's blog post which was in turn inspired by ProfHacker.
I thought this was a good idea for the reasons that ProfHacker writes about but also the fact that I really should reflect in a purposeful way about the various experiments I conduct in my classroom.
Three things that worked well last semester
Combining two sections in one BlackBoard course shell -- I was worried it would get too chaotic but once we got past those first few weeks of acclimation it worked well for me and I think for the students.
Giving my students' IM access -- I was worried that it would be disruptive to me and there was one incident with a student who couldn't understand I was already doing something else and couldn't talk at that moment but for the most part it inspired some truly great teaching moments because I was available when the student needed help. IM also meant we had a record of our conversation so if we were brainstorming the student could just go with the flow of the conversation and not worry about taking notes or remembering. IM also allowed us to clear up confusion that email (or discussion board) can't always provide clarity for -- or at least the process of clearing up confusion in email is more time-consuming and cumbersome.
Shifting focus to writing about writing -- as the main focus of a writing class should be writing I decided to eschew writing about other topics. My choice of focusing on writing for school and professions had mixed results but still a better choice than giving students free rein or focusing on some other unrelated topic.
Three things that didn't work well
Focusing on writing for school was not a good choice -- or at least the way I framed it for students and most of the readings that I provided. It just didn't lead students in the direction I wanted them to go.
Excessive summary writing. I don't know what I was thinking. I was sick of grading them. Students were sick of writing them. Blick. Way too much work for everyone and why?
Excessive assignments. Again. Don't know what I was thinking. I do believe you need to write to improve as a writer but there is also a balance in a workshop situation and this semester didn't find that balance. Shudder just remembering...
Three things I changed for this semester
First-year writing as introduction to writing studies -- I already blogged about this idea
Eliminate summary -- I lied above when I said I didn't know what I was thinking assigning so much summary. I know what I was thinking. I was thinking about how many students the previous semester struggled to learn how to write a summary. But I've sense decided that while this is an important skill perhaps that was not the right approach. I once focused more on the annotated bibliography assignment and I moved back to that approach this semester.
Cut down the number of writing assignments -- bring back sanity for myself and my students and focus on quality rather than quantity. My new approach will focus on smaller, more reflective assignments that then build to a longer, focused research paper inspired by that earlier work. We'll see how it turns out.