December 29, 2013

Teaching and other stuff

I spent most of yesterday working on my class syllabus for the Short Story course I am teaching at GCU this Spring. I am not sure I am doing anything of value right now because GCU auto-loads a syllabus into their learning management system, and I don't have access to it yet. I have the syllabus that was sent to me to use for prep work, but I don't know if it is the final version. Right now, I am planning my course, week by week, and structuring how I will teach each class period. I am supposed to have 33 students enrolled, all upper class students. They are also all English or Education majors so I feel good about the class "academic" level and writing ability. It would be very nice to know what lecture material and timeline is being generated for the student.  This would help me get ta better feel for what I need to cover in lecture/lesson time. I need to be patient for now since there is no point in reinventing the wheel.

I am excited about teaching this class. My Masters degree is in Literature, but I am not a teacher, per se. I am a student, perpetual student, so my focus has always been on learning in the classroom. I have teachers who were good mentors and some of whom I will copy for style. I am uncertain of how to structure the teaching time, though. Part of me is scared about the class management -- how will I use my time properly? I do not want the students to be bored, but I also do not want them to have it easy (using videos and easy writing). This is an upper division literature class so it should be challenging to them. I know this, but it has been a long time since I was at this level. Frankly, my degree program at SJSU was outrageously difficult, and the English courses I took as a minor emphasis were strictly formatted. The Professors lectured mostly and the students took volumes of notes. Current pedagogy suggests student-centered teaching methods, group work, and interactivity. GCU wants their teachers to facilitate and not "teach." I am not sure I know how to do that -- well, at the least, not in a way that will cover the material and challenge the student. Harumph!

I have a class outline (tentative) right now:

Class running time: 1 hour and 10 minutes
  • 5 minutes of getting settled
  • 5 minutes of welcome and general notes/ice breaker
  • 15 minutes lesson time
  • 15 minute video and writing prompt
  • 15 minute class discussion
  • 10 minute review and wrap up
  • 5 minutes closing
On days when I am introducing a new concept (every other week), I will use the 15 minute lesson time to introduce the topic, provide background information, history on the authors, etc. The video and writing prompt will explore the topic, period or an element of fiction.

On days when we are reviewing literature (analysis), I will create discussion groups based around set questions. Then I will assign a specific time for group discussion before we open up the class.

Update

I wasn't able to finish this post yesterday, so I thought I would write a quick update today. I spent some time researching Learner-Centered teaching strategies, and I am now thinking I will follow a "bookend" model for my days. The bookend model is where you open with a short teaching lesson followed by a "think-share" time, and then wrap up with an assessment (to see what the students learned that day). I will be peer-reviewed on assessments so I want to make sure that I am recapping/reviewing and then assessing learner quality as often as possible.

Well, this is my plan...we will see what actually happens once the class begins on January 6th.

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