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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Catching up and staying motivated

I am tempted to apologize for my blogging absence but I trust that anyone reading this will understand when I say that it has simply been "one of those semesters." As I said to someone recently: so far, I'm managing to stay on top of things but just barely so I feel like if I stop for a second, I'll fall behind. But I just got a couple projects off my plate so I'm feeling good and at least wanted to let everyone know what's been going on here.

One of the things that made the start of the semester busier than usual is that I am part of not one but TWO IT pilot projects. One is for PollEverywhere, which I've mentioned before; the other is for SWoRD, which stands for Scaffolded Writing and Reviewing in the Disciplines. I'm using PollEverywhere in my data analysis course, in place of clickers, while SWoRD is a peer reviewing system that I'm using with my writing course for econ majors. I'll be writing more about my experience with each of them in future posts.

Because of these new technologies, I've had to do more class prep than I normally would for courses that I have taught before. But I've also had a lot of prep for the data analysis course because of changes I wanted to make after last semester. The fall was the first time through for the course and it went relatively well, especially considering it was not only a new subject for me but that TBL was an entirely new pedagogical approach as well. But there are definitely improvements to be made this semester. So far, I think things are better but I guess I won't really know until after the midterm in a couple weeks.

However, I did want to share one awesome piece of encouragement I received last week. One of the new things I did this semester, following the suggestion of someone on the TBL list-serv, was that after the first few team sessions, I asked everyone to pull out a piece of paper and write down the name of the teammate "that contributed most to your learning today, and a few sentences about what they did." I then emailed individual students to pass on those positive comments. I have 75 students in each section, though I only had comments to send to about half of them so yes, that is still a lot of emails and yes, I realize that this is the kind of thing that leads me to feel like I always have too much to do. But in reply to one of those emails, I got the following:
"Thank you so much for taking the time to let us know what our teammates think of us in the group. It really helps me keep motivated to participate in group work. Honestly the first day of class when you informed us we will be working in teams, I got really nervous. However I really appreciate and enjoy the way that you have set up the group work where it is very fair and easy to communicate. I always thought team work in a class is always a skewed project where one or more people get taken advantage of. This class however, entirely changed my mind set about team work. My team members and I have discussed this topic concluded that your way of teaching and team work structure is extremely helpful and we enjoy it very much.

I wanted thank you  for giving us the opportunity to participate in this different and unique way of class structure."

And that is why I do what I do...