Tuesday, January 9, 2007
Classes begin one week from today, and so I've been wrenching and soldering the course I'm slotted to teach. The syllabus must be ready one week in advance of the semester (i.e., today) so that our plans and projections can be vetted, held up alongside what's acceptable. And once the syllabus is vetted and approved, TAs are awarded their precious copy codes. That said, I'm teaching an online section this semester, and so it's entirely possible that I won't make a single photocopy over the next sixteen weeks. It's a section of Studio II, the second course in SU's two-course composition sequence, a course normally taken during the second semester of the sophomore year. But the section I've been appointed is designated for "seniors only," which means that there will be ten or so seniors enrolled who will graduate in May and who have yet to take WRT205 for any number of reasons. Rather than explain my plan here, feel free to check out the syllabus if you're so inclined. You should be warned that the front piece looks like garbage in IE, but I've checked it for CSS compliance and it's looks dandy in Firefox, Netscape, and Safari--just like I want it to look. And yeah, I have been futzing with style sheets just for kicks in the last day or so.
I still have a fair amount of work to do for the course in the days ahead, but I'm confident that what's there will go off without a hitch. Holding face-to-face conferences is, as my reviewer pointed out to me, a wildcard, but as I imagine it, it will be significant to meet once at the library for everyone who is relatively near to campus. Even in such cases where it's impossible to meet, we can use Skype or telephone to chat about the first project and what's to follow.
I never said much about it, but the course I taught in the fall, WRT302, improved markedly down the stretch. In fact, on the final day, one day before I sat my major exams, everyone wanted to stay and spend time with each others' final projects. I mean that I said we could end a few minutes early since everyone's stuff was turned in, and they asked if they could look at the culminating projects on the big screen. So we stayed until the last minute of class, watching together the impressive work they'd composed. I'm reminded of this as I head into the new semester because, along with getting the syllabus ready for the upcoming 205, I've been arranging some of my teaching materials and getting a few more pieces, like teaching evaluations, online. I have mixed feelings about sharing the evals because, read apart from the course, the commentary they offer--good and bad--is inevitably vague and ambiguous. Yet, to spend much time explicitly rationalizing specific comments seems excessive (even when I've done this quietly, privately). I learned: This student liked an group work; that one preferred to work alone. One student thought Barthes was the highlight; another, DJ Spooky. Evaluations are useful only insomuch as they are understood as the average effect, the studium of pedagogy. What more be said about the evals is that they tell me this: rarely do I have a set of students who end the semester of a like mind. That is, if the purpose of mass education is to replicate ideas--to grind the burrs from the automatons, something's gone wonderfully wrong. Anyway, I've been putting teaching evaluations up, too, and thinking about the limits of what that might mean.Posted by Derek Mueller at January 9, 2007 9:40 PM to Dry Ogre Chalking