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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fluctuating enrollments

For the last three semesters, I've taught one or two sections of the Data Analysis course with 75 students in each section (yes, this is an upper-division course and yes, I think it's insane). I teach the class with team-based learning (which I realized I haven't written about much - will put that on the To Do list), so there is still a lot of class discussion; from my perspective, the main problem with having 150 students is how long it takes me to grade the exams and papers (yes, I give essay exams and assign two papers, though one of the papers is supposed to be only about four pages). When I originally decided to teach the class with TBL, it was partly because of the material, which lends itself quite well to the TBL format of having students work on complex application exercises. But it was also partly because I knew the classes would be so large and working in teams seemed like a good way to still have lots of student interaction and class discussion.

However, this semester, my enrollments plummeted: I think I will have 36 students in one section and 24 in the other. I'll talk about why enrollments are so low in another post but these numbers have me wondering how this semester will differ from the past. On the one hand, it doesn't really make a lot of sense for me to spend much time re-vamping the class to take advantage of the smaller size, since I believe enrollments will be back up in the 70 range next semester. On the other hand, a part of me feels like I should be able to 'teach better' with such small classes and I feel a bit guilty if I don't even try. On the other, other hand, I still feel like TBL is the best way to teach this material so why 'fix' what ain't broke? Maybe I should just be grateful that I won't be spending as many hours grading and leave it at that; after all, my other class is the writing class so it's not like I won't have plenty of grading to keep me busy, and it would be nice to be able to give that class more attention without killing myself.

This is going to be an interesting semester...

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