Education

Teaching Fails: What Didn’t Go as Planned in Your Courses?

baby duct tapeThe end is in sight. Come May, Seniors will graduate and faculty members will re-enter the world, no longer bound to grading and shackled to an 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. schedule. Before we all travel or binge-watch Game of Thrones, let’s take a moment to reflect.

If you tried something new in your teaching this year and it didn’t work out, now is the time for the post-mortem. What was the new approach or assignment? How did your students react? Why didn’t it work as planned? What could you change to make it better? And finally, are you going to attempt it again next year?

My example dates back to last year when I taught my first Intro to Digital Humanities course. I had one assignment where students could map some aspect of the novel Cloud Atlas using Omeka’s Neatline plugin. While the assignment was technically completed, the focus was overly narrow. I imagined student’s mapping places throughout the novel and not from just one section. I also thought they might map many features in one place, instead of a few places a character visited.

Would I do this assignment again? Yes, but I would provide some concrete examples of what I expected. Further, I’d have my students write a short reflective piece on why they mapped what they did and how they expected the map to help someone examine the novel.

Now that I’ve shared my minor teaching disaster, how about you? What’s something that just didn’t go as planned in your course?

Timothy A. Lepczyk

Tim is an instructional technologist and former librarian. On the side, he writes fiction and poetry, and publishes the magazine Scintilla. You can follow him on Twitter at @thirdcoast.

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