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martes, mayo 03, 2005

Houston, there is a challenger here! 

Reviewing the second class. What a day!

Entered the classroom to arrange tables and chairs into a more collaborative work environment. Students started to filter in… oh good, I said “help with the tables”. And one of the students helped move the heavy tables. As others entered there was surprise about the change of the circle turning into smaller ones around the group and immediately questioned and or commented about the new arrangement. I spoke to one student who demanded me not to ask any more questions (!!!), and when she asked me, I answered and acknowledged that I wanted the same response. There was an undercurrent… something was going on….

Another student entered the room, and was greeted by words of support from another. I wondered … was there some trouble? Started class with the acknowledgement that today, we had a lot of work to do. Our dismissal last time early (25 minutes) was because of my ignorance about our class time ending at 6:15pm and not 6 pm. I started by asking for a summary about the first class and writing on the board those ideas. Immediately some students started to evaluate the class as being too many questions--- ahh I thought, that is what is a going on! Two more continued saying that is not what happens in the college and that they are used to lecturing. Another piped in that my style is Socratic! Humm, should I get into a definition of that? “No, we are not evaluating the class now.” I asked for a summary of last class--- and it seems that people are not studying… reviewing notes... otherwise I would be hearing about: and I carried on into topics that we discussed on the previous class.

We filled the board twice, even more with concepts. They where piping up with ideas, looking at their notes and with satisfaction noticing all we had covered. I presented and we discussed the concepts of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches in the Social Science and noticed that the distinction is subtle. I introduced the group presentation rubrics and questions came up about the requirements for the course. I announced that the participation rubric (a different one from the presentation rubric distributed previously) would be used everyday for a self score on their participation, and that score would be used instead of a presentation on the paper. They liked the option. I told them that I would distribute that second rubric later, after we got used to the presentation one in front of our eyes. (timing, how can I arrive at perfect timing?) For presentations we had ten criteria to rate and a process entailing peer-rating, self reflection (because they each had to rate themselves also, and my rating). An average score would be assigned under the presentation mark for group and individual presentations). There was more discussion about what the presentations would be and of course THE PAPER! What exactly do you want for the paper? I said that the presenting of the paper was optional and that the 4 presentations would be on the module, a group activity, the examples and participation. We had a lot to do now. We started with the first group…. Whose turn is it? I asked while I started to look for the list of presentations … papers everywhere!

Got the egg timer out, and assigned ten minutes for presentation… ten for discussion. OK, prepared! Where is the outline?, enough for everyone? A brave soul I thought, it is hard to be the first one. She went through the outline in 5 minutes! At that point, when she noticed that she had time, she gathered the examples she had collected for the module and showed them in a relaxed manner and quite interestingly! Clever! There was quite a bit of discussion… nice, I thought! Next…

Oh? Not here? She’s been threatening to not present…. Anxious about presenting… (we’ve been taking deep breath together…. And she does not believe that everyone has anxiety about presenting…) Ok, who follows? And the next person started organizing (what would I have done without the egg timer!). Outlines … I have not talked about outlines… at this point the presenter was loading her outline from the computer and I asked where the printed copies where.. (no printed copies for everyone, humm! Clearer guidelines needed)… make sure to print your outlines and make enough copies for everyone! AND PUT YOUR NAME ON EVERYTHING YOU GIVE ME…. Ok, she is using the computer… wonderful, a contribution to the techie indoctrination!!!! Look at the screen when you talk, that way you face the audience… otherwise you face the wall and we would loose you. It looked like an outline, great… can I remember what she is saying? Oh yes, a more thorough description of Zimbardo’s experiment on roles and prisons there seems to be too many words… Ok, timing is good… I started asking for summaries, for statements of consequence…. So What???? Interesting discussion, a student compared her experience being in jail with the exhibit of prisons by Zimbardo, which basically meant that the prison was a heaven for her and it offered her structure for her rehabilitation. The discussion turned into ethical issues, and how through the years social experiments have had to approximate the conditions being studied.

It is soo interesting to be in a guiding position wanting to challenge and facilitate. The woman who was anxiously dealing with her fear of presenting did such a fantastic job! Her topic was intuition… she was able to share some dramatic events in her life entailing premonition and we where able to discuss if it was a self-fulfilling prophesy. I was able to gauge how my responses increased or reduced her discomfort…. Giving my back to her or having eye contact worked sometimes in different ways… and of course, how could I not talk about the subject! At the end of her time, everyone was there cheering her and glad that she was able to take on the challenge of presenting so well.

We took a break… (or thought I would)… instead was meeting with the student how was absent the first day… encouraged her to catch up specially since she was participating nicely in the discussion and made good contributions to the dynamic… eager to go! YES! But I also underlined that there was a lot to catch up! So, go for it, but absences don’t work in this setting. Humm, this model of intense teaching in half a semester…. How can it work? And for whom? How can I match people with resources…. Without dragging those flying? How can the law of the average work for the advanced students? Should they be facilitators? The other idea is to separate the high achievers from the ones behind and keep two modes going… OMG! How can I even think of doing that!!!! How are we all going to dance the excellence rumba!

Back to the room. I have not had a break I informed those listening. And everyone wanted more information about the papers. I did an outline of what the structure of the paper was and most acknowledged their familiarity with the concept. I offered to leave some links with information about the parts of the report on “Manhattan”: the computerized learning environment. We did two more individual presentations. One of them was interestingly focused on the job experience of the presenter. I suggested to her after the presentation to have made more of a feature of explaining where and what her job was so that the context of her description would frame/contextualize her comments. The time management became predictable and useful. In some instances discussion flowed nicely and by the last presentation we where running short of time for discussion. I am sure that the presentation mark helps with participation--- (Grankageva, you are a genius!).

Opening a half an hour slot of time for small group discussion seemed appropriate then (conceptually), and they had as the task to review the examples they brought and identify the best ones. Then papers started to pour all over the place! No names on papers, …how am I to know whose they are. A student started asking for clarification about the structure I was giving. On the last hour of class, when it was time to listen to the two last presentation—I am looking for the presentation rubrics to give markers and cannot find them…I tell everyone to submit their work in a folder. The egg timer was ticking, students all set, papers everywhere… raters are assigned.. (where are those presentation rubrics???) The same student says… you now want us also to get envelopes to put all our materials in it…? I sat back, took time to mouthful of air, heard the person next to me say… it is ok… (you think?)….

Use your copies of the rubrics now, or hand write them (as someone suggested)… and let’s move on. The group was seating on the side of the room, next to the computer. Their presentation seemed like that of 2 groups… I even marked them as that.. two separate ratings. I noticed that the previously anxious presenter was happily presenting and that the first presenter was really a fantastic resource through out the class… what a nice mix!!!! The use of a webpage for a demonstration was nice and the discussion was short but informative.

We had all in all 5 presentations, (peer ratings, self ratings, teacher ratings), discussion about the examples, explanation about the paper and how reports are constructed in Psychology, and adjustments made for a student who was absent the first day. Self-ratings on participation, comments in 3x5 cards about what their papers where on. Was given an article to review its appropriateness for a paper…. Told students to let me know in their communications how I could assist and that I was a resource for them. At the end of class a student stayed on and discussed her paper and also commented about the tension in the classroom being typical… an initiation ritual of sorts!!!! WOW, I don’t need that… I am so glad to know that the “Socratic” method leads to learning--- I better research the term, I was using experiential-participatory before.

OK, what would Doernyei, say about motivational practices?

About Creating the Basic Motivational Conditions I could tell that norm setting and monitoring in a group seems to take a lot of the time… specially when they are developed in the process. Ultimately I wonder how a pleasant environment can be created with so much setting up of structure and rules….

Generating Initial Motivation-- there seemed to be some positive acknowledgement about the complexity of the topics presented here and the subjectivity of the demonstrations and examples. Students where able to link examples and concepts to the discussion and finding patterns within the discussion started to emerge…. (for example, is an attribution bias an error?). The extent to which the class will reach a stated goal –other than the grade…, and issues of intrinsic motivation remain a challenge to most students. The rubrics could work as goals, but they are external. And for one student, intrinsic motivation was demonstrated as she saw ways to improve on an excellent presentation and participation!

Maintaining and Protecting Motivation. How can I keep offering motivation, autonomy and structure, and norms. We did work solid and had a mix of activities…. We where paying attention, rating, presenting, participating… and me—under a cloud of information--- my goal: that overwhelming feeling has to change!
How can the self motivation increase?

Encouraging Positive Self-Evaluation. Now is the time to signal the best outlines, pinpoint what worked in the presentations, and highlight interesting approaches. I did that with some of the students in my written comments, and other times as statements for all to hear. Rewards, encouragement, acknowledgement of their effort…. I’ll keep an eye on that.

Ok, next! Reams of paper and 8 modules for next class!

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