Last semester sort of sucked and I'm still trying to figure out why. And what I mean by 'it sucked' is that I felt like my students were more confused than in the past, more whiny than in the past, and I was often more frustrated than in the past (and I should say that I am referring entirely to my principles class - my upper-division Econ for Teachers class was fine). I think that part of it was a general issue of students (and faculty and staff) being affected by the budget cuts. I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for students to keep straight which classes were canceled because of furloughs on any given day.
But I also wondered if part of the issue with the Principles class in particular was because I was teaching it as a Tuesday/Thursday class when I had previously taught it as a Monday/Wednesday/Friday class. Aside from the fact that I had to tweak all my materials to make lectures flow OK, I just think 75 minutes is a long time for students to be sitting there, trying to absorb information. Of course, I still broke up every class with clicker questions and some interactive stuff, but I still tried to 'cover' the same amount of information as with the three-day format and that meant that we had a lot to get through in each class. Although the total number of minutes per week is the same either way, it somehow feels more manageable with three days than two. I don't know if others have had similar experiences, and there is probably research out there that looks at such things, but whether it actually matters or not, I'm glad that I'm returning to the three-day format this spring.
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