I always like to think about my courses after the grades are submitted. What worked. What did not. What did I learn. This Summer term I taught Poli 103: The Worlds of Politics and Poli 433: Politics and Popular Culture. Both courses ended up with two dozen students, which was odd considering that the first usually enrolls at 180-225 during the others school terms.
What worked: I borrowed a tactic from my colleague, Dr. Michael Webb. The syllabus stated that a student could not pass the class unless 70% of the courses were attended. So, yes, I did take roll. And, this was not for mere attendance, but also for participation. I do have an area for evaluation where roughly 5-20% of the students’ mark is assessed based on their quality participation. This worked well. Every student who completed the course attended the requisite number of courses or more. Now, some students’ engagement and participation in the course varied. But, by and large most participated some. It is hard and unfair to compare the courses, since one is a first year level course and the other is a fourth year seminar.
What did not work: Popplet. I could see from the students’ faces that many of them had a hard time following Popplet. I’m a visual learner and I like outlines, mind mapping, and brainstorming. Popplet did not work for all or even most of the students. I think the branches were too thin and didn’t catch them.
Related to this, I think that many liked my use of Prezi and I know that the majority really found the Slide Rocket slides useful. I am not surprised. The Slide Rocket slides had slightly more information on them and would offer them visual cues of sort back to the course materials, while the Prezi presentations were really about the concepts and less for them to hurriedly type or write down!
The students like that they have a choice with one of the major seminar assignments. Specifically, I have a creative project and the students have the option of putting together a zine, blog or vlog. This term more students opted for the zine compared to last term and I am not sure why this was the case. Regardless, some wonderful zines were submitted, as well as some interesting blogs. The blogs varied in terms of quality and part of this was not just web savvy, but really about the students’ writing and creative analysis. Some obviously spent more time thinking and refining their blog posts.
Overall, I do think that the courses were successful and I look forward to the official course experience surveys (the evaluations), but I will add that the half dozen emails thanking me for the course(s) have been saved and will go in my reappointment file!