Revisiting this post and thinking about how my focus made a difference for me and for the Teaching Assistants. Giving first year students as much information as possible is helpful, but they need to read the syllabus and come to class prepared. I will say that the Fall term fielded lots of attribution issues–not quite plagiarism, but in the same family.
How did I re-think my courses? This is not going to be specific to each of the three courses that I will be teaching. Instead, I am re-thinking assignments and other matter in my course syllabi. I realize that with the first year students I have to explain every single detail and contingency. My syllabus is a leviathan at about one dozen pages. It’s length will increase by a page with an example of what a topic sentence outline should look like.
Moving to the more advanced courses, I am emphasizing due dates as well as noting my new policy of not accepting any late research papers. The sheer number of late assignments can throw off the marking schedule. Given that most terms I have almost 300 students, I need to have a good schedule in order to return work back in 6-10 days. However, specific to the research papers, by and large late research papers are usually not strong assignments. Students have waited until the last minute and usually submit mediocre work. They are exhausted from the entire term’s work load and submit what they could do in a day or two.
The other more cerebral matter is thinking about teaching or learning outcomes. What do I want the students to learn? What can certain readings or assignments offer? These are the more weighty decisions. I review each reading and ask–did this work? Was it successful last term or last year. I hear from some colleagues to not change a thing, but I have never done that. I always tweak and massage, and re-think. I’m still thinking.
Overall, it was a successful year and I’m still processing it.