Fall 09 Semester Decom

decomThis semester just flew by, I managed to turn in my grades a few days ago and can say that I am finally done.

Things I learned this semester:

too much is too much – my lesson plans were at times too ambitious and in fact I ended up dropping a project, well I took a large time consuming project and replaced it with 5 micro assignments that had been made through the semester.  The large project would have required a lot of mentoring and followup on my part and the part of the students.  We ran out of time and I ended up giving students more time to work on projects. I am thinking of dropping one project from Art74.

students will live up (or down ) to your expectations – this includes time management. I am still on the fence about giving extra time for the final projects, it seems that when I do I have students who still wait until the last minute to start.  I realize they are usually managing their projects and doing the most pressing first, but I want to shift them to a model where they work on it a bit at a time to let it stew and to get feedback.

more ways to access material helps students and teachers – I hate doing a demo and then repeating myself during an in-class exercise, over and over.  That is what online demo’s are all about.  I plan to make and use more of these.  They also allow my second language learners to approach at their own speed in their own time.

feedback, communication & community are good – we failed when there wasn’t enough info passed back and forth, and the community that is created is functioning even after the end of the semester.

some people don’t want to be saved – I lost some people this semester, it sucked I tried to reach back to give them a chance, but at least one just never replied.

even an easy project can kill a good grade – when I swapped out the hard project for the easy one I did not change the scale, I honestly looked at it as a gift to the students.  as it stands I had to look back and rethink it, some weren’t paying attention, and some didn’t get it even after I emphasized it in multiple class sessions.  grading points need to reflect class priorities, and by switching I did not properly consider the goals (learning goals in particular) of the class.  In the end I gave consideration to that, but I should have just eliminated the points from the tally.

What am I doing differently next semester:

A new model for production (3 step): proposal, draft, final.  Each part will include a sign-off and a feedback mechanism.  That is, if a student hasn’t shown a draft then their crit may become the draft and they will need to resubmit.  I need to work out timing and an automated check-in, but I think it can work.

make better use of my TA’s – Spring is the first time that I have a TA that I feel has something real to learn from their duties.  so I need to make the job compelling and consider learning goals for the TA, this cannot be purely helper time (though a TA is awesome to have for a tech lecture) and not purely modelling.

make better use of class notes – I need to review the notes more closely that are taken in class and perhaps assign some followup.

All told I am quite happy with the last semester, the weekly decoms were so helpful to me, and I think we actually ended up learning something.