Monday, June 15, 2015

Reflections: What I do once a class ends.

This is the second in my line of posts about reflections, why they're useful, what I do to reflect, and what I do to help my students reflect on their own performance. Today we're looking at what I do at the end of the term, and how I prepare for the next time I teach a class. As an adjunct I regularly teach the same classes from term-to-term and anything I can do to help my future self quickly prepare for a class is beneficial.

At the start of each term we all have ideas about learning activities, assessments, grading structures, rubrics, and other aspects of how we are going to run (or at least manage) a course. At the end of a term we have seen how they have worked, how they didn't, and ideas for how to make them better. During finals week, for each class I take a half-hour to an hour and write a page or two on all the components of a course. This is a short example of what I started with for my Calculus III course:

Two notes, one focusing on the overall course, and the second on series notation.
Calculus III Reflections notes. 
These are very rough notes. Some of these notes I would have probably edited for wider distribution ("... if you don't force them to!"). But this is what I wrote when I was trying to get these ideas on paper. And this is the point of this exercise, get your ideas on paper quickly before the term is over and you forget. I usually create these notes during my final exams, so I can see all my students and remember what worked and didn't work for them. It also helps me think of policies to include in the syllabus if there was a particular situation that arose with a student. I include these notes in the front of my course folder.

At the start of the next term, I open my course folder and the first thing I see is this list of do's and don'ts, and don't even think about it's. These notes have helped me start preparing for a course much more quickly. I can focus on what needs to be revised, updated, or created, instead of wondering what I did last time. 

What do you do to at the end of each term to help yourself prepare for the next? Please share your experiences with me here on the blog, on LinkedIn, or Twitter

Monday, June 8, 2015

Reflections: Just like checking solutions, something else we don't do, but should.

Living time linearly it is sometimes hard to think back and remember how classes started. I always start with good intentions, like "I am going to return every piece of graded material back by the next class session." or "I will create a dynamic learner-centered classroom." or "Active Learning is my watchword." or some other well-intended but doomed to failure dictum. To help make these things a reality for myself, but also for my students, I'm starting to institute end-of-term reflections. My next few posts will explore two types of reflections I am using this term, how they started, and how they are working out this term.

  • Student Reflections - These have taken the form of a 1 point extra credit assignment after a student has completed their final. This short, 5 question assignment asks them to think about what they should have done this term, and what they will do next term. 
  • Course Reflections - After finishing a class I will write a page about what worked, what didn't work, and what to do next time. 
Stay tuned this week for my reflections... about reflections? (R-squared? R(R(x))?) And feel free to add your own!