End of Semester Reflection: Fall 2010

Monday, December 20th, 2010

I’m told there will never be another Fall 2010 semester so I might as well reflect on it.

It was an interesting semester. One of the best parts of teaching college is that every semester the instructor meets about one hundred new people. I’m glad for this. It’s one of the best aspects of the job. This semester I met some curious, interesting, exciting, and fragile people. About five weeks in, I lost about half the above number and then a few more. New Media saw lots of drops, also. British Literature keep most until the end, and the writing courses saw about three quarters loss, maintaining the trend. In any event, things worked out pretty well, with some very good writing, discussion, and learning from the men and women in these courses.

The attrition levels may sound alarming. This semester, however, faired much better than in past years. One thing I learned is that I need to front-end more logic and reasoning methodologies in the writing courses. Several of the higher performing students would have benefitted from earlier forays into composition and analysis. Those who met the course abilities at Satisfactory, I think, would also benefit from a closer attention from the start into specific examination of elements like propter hoc fallacies and other formal and informal engagement. Saving definitions and examples of “begging the question” too late in the semester appears to break the editing stream and fragments thinking, especially for students who aren’t used to argumentation and persuasive writing strategies. I’ll keep to theme of human ecology as there are numerous exciting ideas in the works, especially out of the American Society for Civil Engineering, whose grade of D on American infrastructure might be a good stage setter for the problems we study in Composition.

New Media will see the incorporation of quizzing and exams to reinforce content. Projects will be prep for these. And John and I need to work on some sort of system that will keep students on top of their studies in new media, as we find that students are misusing their time. In the courses we teach, students mainly get into trouble because they don’t keep up with “all” the material and work required. I note that one missed item breeds several more.

It was a loud semester. Hours of guitar, talking, listening, and lecture and discussion. I find myself over the last few days out of the Twitter, blog, and Facebook stream. I’ve taken to sitting in a quiet room considering what I learned over the semester. The most significant lesson comes from questions on learning that have been on the front burner: what is the epistemological epiphany? When, in other words, can we say something has been learned? One answer comes from Taoism: we know we know something when it comes without thinking or, in other words, when it is repeated naturally. Taoism sets a very difficult standard, but it does make sense. Since I still have to think about how to play the chords in the key of C, I don’t really know this Key yet. This is the perfect problem in the study of opposites: one can’t help but perform badly before performing so so and so on.


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