Because of this experience, I have slightly altered the way I view teaching, and the way I would want to run my classroom. I think a good idea is to have a worst and best case scenario, and have materials and activities prepared for those classes that need you to push them to get them to participate. When I taught, I was counting on class discussion and sharing that never happened – just because I was passionate about the topic and wanting to talk about it, didn’t mean they were. I should have prepared extra exercises and lecture in case that happened, which I didn’t, and so class ended half an hour early, to my disappointment (and slight embarrassment.) I’m also less afraid to “aggressively encourage” them to participate, or to let them know that if they don’t participate, their grade will suffer for it. I will absolutely be including a participation grade in my classroom, should the need arise. However, I believe flexibility in these situations to be key.
I’ve also started to become more adverse to relying on PowerPoints for anything more than a kind of “Table of Contents” for a class. I don’t think that reading off slides is always the most effective way to communicate, and I think it makes the classroom a little more closed off to discussion. I’d really like to be able to make a “circle of friendship” in my class so that students are encouraged to discuss more freely amongst themselves, and it also removes the kind of security blanket that rows provide – they can’t sit in the back if it’s a circle, and they can’t hide their faces when it comes time to discuss the readings.
I’ve also discovered how important it is to connect the readings to the lesson. When a clear connection isn’t made, students will either not do the reading, or won’t be willing to discuss it as much. It’s beneficial to both them and the instructor to be able to draw connections across the semester, and I imagine that’s true whether it’s an ENC 2135 or 1101 classroom. Readings should absolutely augment lessons and challenge students to reach beyond what the text is saying on the surface, as well as encourage discussion in the classroom, and if they can’t make connections, that isn’t going to happen.