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Category Archive for 'Planning for the Future'

My summer was marked by several events. First, I spent three weeks working with a faculty group looking at examples of student writing from the class of 2010. To do so, we worked collaboratively to create a rubric to assess college-level writing. The rubric-making process was as enlightening as the information we gleaned from the assessments.  The faculty members came from various disciplines–literature, film, math, foreign language, and political science.  Ironically, my assessments were closest to those of the math professor!  Second, we presented some of our findings at the 22nd International Conference on The First-Year Experience in Montréal (July 23, 2009).

Jane Austen's house in Chawton

Jane Austen's house in Chawton

In June I took a longed-for trip to England with my younger daughter to visit Jane Austen sites.  I hope to write more about this trip later. (In a few weeks, I will be on leave and will be immersed in all Austen all-the-time), but here are a very few of the over 3,000 pics I took on my trip.

This fall, I’ve spent most of my professional time tutoring writing, an experience I have thoroughly enjoyed. I have some thoughts about the process of turning good high school writers into good college writers that I hope to write about once the semester is over. Another thing that has filled my time is Middlebury’s  Web Redo project. With two other colleagues, I’ve been working on the four sites for our offices (Center for Teaching, Learning, and Research; Office of Learning Resources; Writing Program, and First-Year Seminar Program).  I’m not linking here because the old sites will disappear, and the new ones aren’t ready yet.  I’m saving my opinion of Drupal until the process is complete.  I’m guessing when the process is finally  complete, all the work and frustrations will have been well worth the effort.  Stay tuned.

I’m heading back to our Annual Writing Retreat tomorrow, to talk about Syllabus Building and Assignment Sequencing again. My top three points for this presentation are:

  • Start at the back end, and know your goals.
  • Build forward, adding challenges and difficulties to achieve those goals.
  • Make your pedagogy transparent to your students.

Last fall, I followed this last advice to the extent that I shared part of my presentation to the faculty with my students and discussed with them the way I structured the course to achieve specific goals.

In an optional journal entry, some of my students discussed whether or not we had met our goals. Here is one of my favorite comments:

We achieved all these goals! Wow, we did learn a lot in this class, didn’t we? In retrospect, I am so glad I got into this seminar and wrote/revised papers every week because they really shaped me as a writer. We achieved Goals #1, 2, 6, and 8 through posting online discussions, Goals #2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 through writing papers, and Goal #9 through participating in class discussions and giving oral presentations. I definitely learned how to compare and contrast between the novel and the film and to compare three different things in a paper. We all did an awesome job in our digital media projects, and of course, after Jane Austen dance dinner, we can call ourselves dance masters :)

Syllabus for this course is here.

Yesterday, as I drove the back roads that meander through the green mountains of Vermont, I spied the first leaves turning from green to gold. Everything is still green in the valley where I live, but the turning leaves at that higher elevation remind me that I need to turn my mind seriously to the coming fall semester. This fall I teach again a course I love, a Jane Austen & Film first-year seminar. I last taught this course in fall 2001, and used a class server to share drafts and house handouts and links. Since then I have added blogs, course management tools and digital stories to my classes. Now, I work on retooling my course to use the new technologies I’ve learned and used in other courses, so I must make hard choices about what stays and what goes from my old syllabus.

Sites DOT Middlebury: the Middlebury site network.