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Monday, September 5, 2011

Scheduling issues

This fall, my Economics for Teachers class is meeting once a week, in the evening. It wasn't my first choice for scheduling but as I re-vamped the class over the summer, I began to think that maybe this will actually be a good format. When I originally created the class, one thought I kicked around was that I would "teach" a lesson and then we would de-brief that lesson as a group (i.e., discuss why I chose to present the material in that way, what worked and what didn't, what might be stumbling blocks for students learning the material for the first time, etc.). In practice, I haven't done as much of that debriefing as I would like, for various reasons. One of those reasons was the timing of 75-minute class meetings - 75 minutes is really too short to teach a lesson AND do a thorough debriefing (plus all the administrative odds and ends that seem to take a few minutes at the beginning and end of each class) so either the debriefing would have to be cut short or I'd have to try to carry it over to the next class, which tends to be a real momentum-killer. If the discussion did get carried over, then I'd have to figure out how to fill the remainder of that class meeting with something useful. With one 160-minute meeting each week, I've cut down on the number of topics but we should have a lot more time to really discuss the content and the pedagogy in more depth. I'm planning to give the class lots of breaks but the timing of those will be dictated by how the discussion is going. And I can 'fill in' the odd batches of time with some economics of education topics that are relevant to the course but more flexible in when/how long we discuss them.

I've also realized that a benefit of the class meeting once a week is I don't feel bad about assigning a lot of reading, since students will obviously have plenty of time to complete the reading before the next class. Most weeks they will be asked to reflect on that reading by responding to a specific discussion prompt. I had thought my campus would be upgrading over the summer to Blackboard 9.1, which has blogging features that I thought would be good for the reflections, but since the upgrade was pushed back, they are just posting them in a Discussion Board. I don't think it's not ideal for generating discussion (ironically) but didn't get my act together soon enough to work out having them create their own blogs through an outside site.

Now that the semester is under way, I'm more concerned about the fact that the class is in the evening than once a week. It's been a long time since I taught an evening course and I'm worried about keeping my energy up at a point in the day when I'm used to winding down (not to mention that I'll be getting home around the time I'm using heading to bed). I assume the students will be fine but I'm curious to see if there's any noticeable difference in their energy. If anyone has advice about how to stay energized for an evening course like this, please share!

4 comments:

  1. Nap during the day? Seems the only healthy option. If you relax (w/out sleeping) it might be hard to get going.

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  2. I teach a lot of late afternoon and evening classes. Generally, students seem conditioned to the scheduling and their workloads. By the end of a 6:00 to 8:40 class session, yes, batteries are running down. But I think I recall that from morning classes of the same length, too.

    Great to have group work or active things happening during that last hour.

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  3. Yes, even after only two classes, I can tell that these long classes are great incentive to avoid lecturing! I'm going to have to re-work a few classes to incorporate more active learning...

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  4. I'd definitely agree--I teach high school, but with any age group I think switching up activities often (transitioning from pairs to groups to whole group work to lecture), giving people a chance to get out of their seats occasionally (if only to walk over to a different part of the room to work in, and making sure no one consistently works with the same other students, helps keep things fresh. Also cold-calling is always good for giving students an extra incentive to pay attention.

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