Well, Fall Semester has officially drawn to a close. All the assignments are graded, and the grades are ready to be uploaded first thing Monday morning. Now, it’s time to grade myself for the semester.
The second year was a lot easier than the first. It is a whole lot easier to be able to give an answer with confidence, instead of having to look everything up. I’m still trying to figure out how to best advise different personality types. That’s something I’m going to be working on into the next semester and year.
First Year Academic Seminar
I had customized it a bit from last year, and it went very well. I had three guest speakers, up one from last year. Health Services is a very difficult hour, but it is something they need to hear. Financial Aid answered the most frequent questions I had aside from academics. This was the first time I had Public Safety talk to the students. It turned out to be very timely, as it was that afternoon we experienced a bomb threat and full campus evacuation. I know for certain they will be invited back.
My challenge with the FYAS is balancing the stuff I have to cover (school policies, CORE requirements, etc) with the stuff I believe they need to know (study skills, school history and traditions, professionalism, etc). I had done online modules for history and traditions, academic honesty, and had assignments that dealt with professionalism. I think next year, I am going to expand the history, ethics, and professionalism modules online and revamp some of the assessments. History is fairly straight forward. Ethics and professionalism is something I will have to think through over the break and probably into the summer. But, in the end, just as I expect the Composition I instructors to teach these kids to write, it is my responsibility to ensure they know the consequences of cheating and plagiarism, as well how to communicate with professors.
There will be other redesigns to my assignments as well. I think I am going to change an assignment I had as bonus points to the main final assignment. The responses I saw there were very good, and provided much more feedback than I would have ever expected, much better than the actual final project I have been using. A few other things I had as optional this year will likely be finding their way into requirements next year as well.
Overall, while more people failed than I would have liked, it was a good semester. The averages on each assignment were high, there just were several students who submitted nothing.
Politics and Society
First off, what was I thinking with four papers for a class of 80 students? I love the current event papers, but they simply do not work with a class that size. Instead, I think I will go to two different types of quizzes. Keep the chapter reading quizzes like I have now, and add in current event quizzes every other week or so. The reading quizzes, instead of half being due at midterm, and half on the last day of class, will go back to being due a week after that chapter is covered in lecture. It will mean slightly more work for me, but hopefully the students will stay on top of it more, instead of trying to do 6 weeks worth of quizzes the night they are due.
If I am going to do away with the current event papers, I need to make the main term paper longer. Right now, it is five pages. With the prompts given, it could easily be 12-15, but this is a freshman course. So, I will most likely change it to an 8 page requirement. Now if I could just convince them that cover and reference pages do not count towards that limit…
The exams will have to be more difficult as well. I admit it; I’m used to writing exams for a junior college, not a university. Not only is the class at a different level, It’s also the difference between 8 weeks and 15 weeks, with is a HUGE difference when it comes to the amount of material which can be covered. I have to come up with a way to incorporate more critical thinking into the exams as well.
Overall, the grade distribution for this class was VERY high. Hopefully, with these adjustments, it will even out a bit.
Introduction to American Government
This class has actually been over since before Thanksgiving. It is basically the same class I have been teaching since the fall of 2010, so it is fairly well ironed out. The trick is going to be making the adjustments to Politics and Society without “messing up” this course.
This was the largest class I’ve had at GMC though. Normally, I have between 8-10 students; this class was 25. It made it very difficult to connect the way I normally do with the students. Also, the institution dropped the institution wide attendance policy. While it was nice to be able to excuse absences for students who had an actual reason for missing, it was seen as a license to miss for some of the students, and their grades reflected it. The message that attendance does affect outcome MUST be communicated to students effectively.