Welcome to the fifth installment of the Teaching Carnival! It’s been a crazy month for everyone, it seems, with holidays all around colliding with terms’ end and beginning for many. As always, though, thoughtful conversations carried on about all aspects of teaching in higher education. See for yourself!
For many scholars, December is a crunch time when we struggle to survive the end-of-term responsibilities in our teaching. Jo(e)’s students share what we learned this semester. Steven D. Krause wraps up his term in style, musing on what’s past and what’s ahead in his teaching. The awful realities of grade disputes get a twenty-first century twist when the Cranky Professor experiences grade protest in an age of electronic grade submission while, over at Learning Curves, we sympathetically wince at the doubled pressure that comes when semesters collide.
Most of us were more energized to think about the start of the new term than to rehash the old and a flurry of posts touch on this topic. The Little Professor makes her academic New Year’s Resolutions. From “That’s why they call my ‘Doctor’” comes a musing on the start of term reminding us that, if we feel unsure and unsteady, our students feel that moreso! Ianqui in the Village lists the many nagging duties that rear their head upon returning to the office. Pericopae waxes rhapsodic about the many positive aspects of a new teaching gig while over at the Paper Chase and Blogenspiel confront the guilt and good about getting back in the groove.
Course Design and Preparation:
Given that January marks the start of a new term for many scholars, it’s not surprising we see a lot of discussion about course creation and revision. Dean Dad starts things off with a discussion about hybrid (online/in-person) courses. Over at m2h we track a course proposal to conclusion. Raining Cats and Dogma explores the possibilities of a new course theme. Profgrrrrl chronicles how cut-offs can make us crazy with too low and too high course enrollments. And I try to avoid the temptation of over-preparation.
With new terms and new courses comes the need for new syllabi (or outlines or manuals or however you want to term them). At the Salt-Box we confront how to shoehorn in all those great texts into the course you’re designing. At Reassigned Time, Dr. Crazy leaves some helpful notes on syllabus creation and New Kid on the Hallway asks if it’s evil to set aside one seminar week for work on research proposals.
Change is in the air: whether, as at Jo(e)’s, where it’s based on student input or at Thoughts from the Waiting Room where we tackle the ever-present fear of recycled essays and tired topics. Over at New Kid’s, the eternal hopes of perfection keep her tweaking her syllabi while, more prosaically, Bitch Ph.D. wonders what are the odds her syllabi will be ready on time.
Policies and Problems:
Ianqui in the Village asks how to handle uncomfortable requests for letters of reference and posts an excellent follow-up. Over at I Know What I Know, we wrap up an experiment on the value of due dates while back at the Salt Box we explore new strategies in assignment feedback. Profgrrrrl talks about the links between assignments and motivation. Ianqui also talks about the prospect of co-teaching (again).
Plagiarism is always a concern. We find thoughtful takes on the problem at Tama’s eLearning Blog where proactive steps against plagiarism are the focus and also at Cliopatria where Jonathan Dresner posts a Teacher’s Lament. More frustration looms with the systems to deal with cheaters over at Adventures in Ethics and Science.
Mel at In Favor of Thinking presents us with contrasting student portraits from the classroom. Ancrene Wiseass has students who rock (and don’t we all envy her!) while See Jane Computes talks about the ego-boost that comes when former students drop in for a visit. Meanwhile, Not a Folk Singer shares the mixed joy and stress of holiday emails from motivated students. At Office Hours, we see a clear contrast in student populations from one class to the next.
Not all student issues are so clear-cut, of course. Profgrrrrl shares the case of the puzzling student (as in why are you taking another course with me after that last experience?). Over at Reassigned Time, Dr. Crazy runs up against the crazy-making attitude of students who hate reading. At In Saecula Saeculorum, the question for discussion is disinterested students and how to reach them.
Of course, things can get even more difficult. Academic Coach sparked a fiery discussion on the topic of how to cope with whining students. Psyc Girl turned to the blogosphere for help in how to handle disruptive students in the classroom.
As well as speaking to each other, some of our blog posts reach out to the students. You shouldn’t miss Another Damned Medievalist’s lucid and helpful post about how to do college full of advice for both students and faculty. Meanwhile, Bardiac makes a heartfelt plea to students on how to help your writers when seeking letters of recommendation.
Many educators started to get back their evaluations for last term’s courses. This sparked a flurry of posts ranging from New Kid’s semi-annual complaint about evaluations to Profgrrrrl’s likening of student evaluations to rubbing against scar tissue. Dr. Crazy responded to irksome comments at RMP.com. (Readers may be interested to discover there’s a flip side for this at Rate Your Students.) Ryan M. Claycomb, again, at Raining Cats and Dogma, eloquently expresses the frustration of reading the tea-leaves of evaluation responses.
When it comes to teaching literature, there are many excellent posts, beginning with Bardiac’s discussion on writing basics. There’s a great post at m2h on the structure of seminar papers. John, at Machina Memorialis, discusses a major overhaul he’s making to his science fiction course while Science and Politics tries to nail down the essential science fiction reading list. Dr. Virago details the ups and downs of teaching medieval drama from the Norton anthology and goes on to recount her tempestuous relationship with literature surveys and anthologies. Meanwhile, Bardiac takes the topic to the graduate level when she chronicles the humbling work of assessing graduate student portfolios.
In history, I was directed to some great posts: New Kid on the Hallway tackles the problem of getting students to think historically about the medieval church. Over at Frog in a Well, Jonathan Dresner detailed his decision to abandon a smooth chronological survey in favour of “lumpy history”. The eternal argument for making history relevant gets a new spin as Harry at Crooked Timber responds to Max Hastings on history teaching.
Outside of these disciplines, it’s harder to uncover the great posts about teaching in other fields, but I have to highlight Adjunct Kait’s heartfelt call for a blacklist of overdone topics in advertising courses. Learning Curves wonders how to best challenge her honors students and Andrew at Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference and Social Science (longest blog title ever?) posts a handy guide to anyone teaching a new statistics class. I know there are more great posts on teaching out there, so — please! — for the next Teaching Carnival, if you know of good blog posts about teaching in higher education in science, engineering, professional fields, health sciences and the rest of the arts, post those links to technorati or del.icio.us under our teaching-carnival tag.
Taking a long view, Dean Dad touches on the danger of hidden assumptions with his post: “It Goes Without Saying” and, over at Inside Higher Ed, Scott Jaschik draws from different disciplines to lay out The Teaching Agenda. At the Valve, take part in Mark Bauerlein’s re-examination of the core curriculum. And Dean Dad reminds that much of the administrator’s work goes unseen, so don’t spend too much vitriol on “do-nothing administrators” if you please! The Magic School bus tackles the uneasy issues around an education program handling a student who favours corporal punishment.
Meanwhile, Dr. Virago grumbles politely about explaining to others the inflexibility of academic life. Dean Dad points out the value of knowing the bad-weather policies, especially at exam time. At Learning Rocks, we confront the problems of self-made grade inflation and Pedablogue looks at the broad range of possibilities that can result when the professor writes the textbook.
Speaking of books, New Kid on the Hallway shares a story of book orders gone astraythe big binder of seminar readings while The Gentleman’s C rails about student demand for a costly reader instead of printing their own. Learning Curves warns us to check the bookstores to see if they’re stocking answer guides unordered.
The Fun and the Fearsome:
Let’s wrap up this Teaching Carnival with a few odd tidbits. First comes Dr. Medusa’s taking joy in students’ reliance on spell-check. The Dr. shares a fishing email from a student. Coturnix muses about how the next generation’s learning at the Science Fair. And the darker side of the profession gets a nod when the Cranky Professor points out that, however bad things might seem right now, at least you’re not being stabbed.