Now, the Fruit Studies People had no requirements (or even, guidelines) about how to teach Intro to Fruit Studies except that the students had to know this list of Important Figures in the Discipline; they have to take an exit test when they graduate if this is their major. My fellow postdoc who also taught Fruit Studies (both semesters while I only did Spring) decided to have students to class presentations and they each picked a figure and reported on his/her life and contributions. So I blocked out a week on my syllabus to have us do the same, and really hated it. My students, even more so than in my comp class, just aren't prepared for college or really know what it should be like, and I got really terrible presentations --- they ranged from completely incoherent and wrong to merely dull and stultifying. I told them they had to do something more interesting than powerpoint presentations and I wanted them to be imaginative and creative, and they all did bad powerpoint presentations instead. Having them fumble with the room technology and the powerpoint technology slowed us down and killed any momentum, and a lot of them couldn't ever get the PP program to work.
Maybe, just maybe, you could say this is an important skill for them to learn, as is public speaking, (they are a very insecure/shy and passive bunch, who don't know the ins and outs of being a good student or public figure) and I should accept that prepping them/grading them on doing good powerpoint presentations would be a good assignment. But the students themselves looked so bored, dozing off in each others' presentations, and one senior guy (not a FS major) even mouthed off about how boring and what a waste of time the week was for him. I didn't appreciate the rudeness or the attitude, but that was basically my experience of that week of presentations.
The other total clusterfuck was that I believed all the people who say "Fruit Studies is so interdisciplinary and collaborative! We should always have a student-centered pedagogy in our classes!" Bleah. I put in a "student facilitator" system where a different student would be on the spot to help lead the discussion or bring in some sort of interesting related material, and that totally bombed. Remember how I was complaining how none of my facilitators were showing up on the day they were supposed to go? Yeah that was all FS students. When they did show up, their "facilitation" was either to stand behind the podium and read off a summary of the readings from a powerpoint slide in a monotone, or something even worse that they hadn't really thought through --- like the person who brought in a 3-hour movie for a 1 hr 15 minute class and ate up my entire time. Even when they did show up their stuff usually conflicted with whatever I had planned, even though I warned them again and again to let me know their plans ahead of time.
So since they don't know how to facilitate a class or even participate effectively in one, and since I'm a total control freak in class and not knowing what my lesson plan is until after I walk into the room totally gets me all worked up, I'm dropping that aspect from the class. I'll revamp the discussion grade and really push for them to present their findings from the small groups. I can still have it be "engaging" by me finding interesting current event articles and working up a bunch of questions/problems they have to solve, since I actually try to think about the desired learning outcome.
My fellow postdoc was so angry and frustrated that entire first semester because the students just wouldn't talk and wouldn't read/bring their books that zie rewrote the syllabus to have reading comprehension questions and/or a quiz (announced in the syllabus) due every class session. I did not ---- mainly because I thought the questions in the book weren't very good but I didn't have time to make new ones ---- and I had mostly the same experience. So I am following Fellow Postdoc's footsteps and instituting regular homework and quizzes in addition to all the little assignments (5, a film analysis paper and a take-home final) I had before. I'm not sure where it all fits in the syllabus yet, and I haven't figured out how I am replacing the Famous Figures of FS presentation ---- add another paper? some sort of class wiki or online thing? Hmm.
Oh, and I still haven't added anything about Fruits and Finance! (remember me discussing some sort of "take charge of your life/responsibility/think bigger/don't be so passive" activity I wanted to teach these students? I can't find the post. But I still want to, I just don't know what that activity would be.)
And will going to constant little assignments/quizzes totally kill me in terms of workload? Would you? (Would you drop/rearrange/consolidate the larger assignments?) Would you actually read/grade them all or just hold on to them? Or just check/plus/minus them? (I admit that I hardly ever read the comp classes' in class paragraphs I was having them do every day. Oops. Mea culpa or something.)
So, to wrap up, in shorter form:
- Presentations on Important Figures sucked. What would be a better alternative assignment, since the department requires I cover these figures in some way?
- Setting up reading homework/quizzes for every class session: Good idea or madness and overwork? Is that madness and overwork for me or the students and does it matter?
- How might you teach/set up a project/activity thingy to have your students be more ambitious and assertive about their own lives and life goals, whether financially, career, or something else? (In the comments to the post I can't find, we discussed the book Your Money or Your Life, which I agree opens up interesting discussions about why we work, and I want to do something with it/related to it.
- Anything else you'd want to suggest? What's your favorite fruit?
*Oh, like you grade an assignment the day it comes in!