Friday, January 18, 2019
January 18, 2019: Spring Previews: English Studies Capstone
[A new semester is upon us, and with it comes a new Spring Preview series. Leading up to a special weekend post on book updates, plans, and hopes!]
On the possibility of flipping a classroom to address a problem (and a request for input!).
I’ve taught our English Studies Senior Capstone course a number of times, and always enjoy the chance to work with the students in that distinct and particularly individualized setting. Through their work on their senior portfolios I get the chance to read much more of each student’s writing and work than I would in any other classroom contexts, and in so doing get a great introduction to not only each individual, but also and especially the breadth and depth of the work being produced by our talented English Studies Majors. And through their work on the class’s pre-professional materials (things like resumes/CVs, job cover letters/grad school personal statements, and the like) I get a chance to talk with them a lot about their future goals and plans, and hopefully to play a small role in helping them move into those next steps as successfully as possible. It’s just different from any other class I get to teach (other than the parallel Interdisciplinary Studies Capstone, which I’ve only taught once), and I greatly enjoy it every time I do.
The last time I taught it, in Spring 2018, I enjoyed all those aspects just as much, but found that things didn’t work quite as well with the third element: the shared conversations, in which we move through units on each concentration in our English Studies program (Professional Writing, Literature, Secondary Education, and Theater) with focal texts to help drive our conversations. To be honest, I think the students didn’t quite see the value in those readings and conversations, at least not compared to the graduation requirement that is the senior portfolio and the clear practicality and productivity of the pre-professional materials; and I’ll admit that I didn’t identify this problem nearly soon enough to do a good job framing why this third element was also important and central to the Capstone work. They were English Studies Majors and strong students and voices to boot, so we had some good moments and discussions across those texts and units, but nonetheless this element of the class was definitely the least engaged and strong of the three, and honestly the least engaged and strong of any time I’ve taught Capstone.
So as I get ready for my next section of Capstone, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to address that particular element and potential problem. Part of it, as usual, is just identifying the issue and being more forthright (with myself, with y’all here, and with the students in the class especially) about both it and the reasons for this element of the class. But I wonder if part of it might not be trying to figure out a way to flip the classroom when it comes to those conversations—to have them driven much more fully by the students and their interests and needs than by anything I might bring to the mix. Truth be told, though, I’m not at all sure about flipping, either in terms of how to do it or in terms of whether it’s a good thing to do. So I’m gonna stop this preview here and say that I’d love to hear any thoughts or takes on flipped classrooms, here in comments or by email or any other way! Thanks in advance!
Special post this weekend,
PS. Spring previews of your own to share? I’d love to hear them!