The end of the semester is drawing near, bringing the closing blues. This semester started in such chaos with all the campus changes. I hope Christmas break brings its usual re-energizing rest (a little under a month away). I have excellent students this semester, which carries me through the weekly grind. Here is a random list of changes for next semester’s classes:

1. A service learning component to the interpersonal class.

The project will be designed around a new “conversational partners” program on campus to help international students learn English. To that end, I joined this semester and met a great partner. She’s Chinese and a non-traditional, returning student. She’s been a housewife here for several years after being on what sounds like a high-power career path in China (in finance).  I’ve learned a lot and we’ve had some surprisingly deep conversations given our language barrier. The class assignment will include structured journal questions, and then the option of a paper or creative project.

2. A redesigned group project.

The standard “follow the Dewey steps” approach does not create interdependence. Students disperse and work independently on their little corner of the project. They need something that forces them to depend on each other. Unfortunately, the high drop and/or disappearance rates at school mean waiting late in the semester to assign groups, which reduces the time group dynamics to develop. I need to force the issue somehow, and I’m not sure what assignment will accomplish that.

3. Decreased my lecture times…

…and increased in-class activities. This will take serious re-thinking. I’m considering posting notes on Blackboard. Two considerations: Students learn better when when their hands move across the paper, and they stop listening in class if the notes are available. On the flip side, my lectures have been running 20-30 minutes, which is longer than I like, and has caused me to shut down discussion.

4. More examples of student speeches. (But where to find them….)

5. Also, totally unrelatedly, I’m going to get back to cleaning my office. I stopped at something like step 22 or something.

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