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So I just made it through the FWS class I’ve been fearing the most. Lectures I can handle; ditto reading discussions. But getting students to critique their peer’s work, that’s something really new. I had tried similar exercises at RIT and it never worked out as I had hoped. Thankfully, things went really smoothly.

That smoothness was in no small part related to the quality of work that the students turned in. The first assignment for the class was to write you bio as a “digital native.” The results were really fun for me to read and contained a lot of good material to pull. While there were plenty of grammatical and construction issues in them, the great news was that they were all “complex” ones for the most part. By complex, I mean that we were working on improving clarity versus conjugating verbs or unraveling tenses (the latter problems being things that I’m not really qualified to teach).

The biggest problem that I faced, and will continue to face for the rest of the semester, is where the subject line comes in. I’m still having a lot of problems, accurately budget enough time for the material I want to cover. During the class, I broke everyone into groups and had them work on “diagnosing” and “correcting” exemplary “problem” excepts from the papers (problem is in quotes because at times there wasn’t a pure problem with a sentence, it was just less than optimal). This generated a lot of good discussion. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how much time it would take to rejig the first four sentences. The result was that most groups spent the first 15 minutes or so, working on the first fifth of the assignment. The net result was that I extended the group time to enable everyone to get through the worksheet. That unfortunately ate in to the time I had on the backend to synthesize all of the group results in a guided discussion. So the “discussion” became a mini-lecture, and in that process, I lost the chance to ensure that all students contributed something in the group environment.

On the plus side, a few years ago this all would have really flustered me. Especially since it was happening in the midst of a class that I’m still in the process of developing. I’m not saying that this is now old hat. It isn’t. What is happening is that I’m learning to work smarter in terms of preparation and class planning. And that, as Martha says, “is a good thing.”