02 February 2006

day 4 observations

I believe my soul has finally caught up to me this morning, and yet it is still difficult to engage with the world, which in my case has meant various media (TV, news, the web) as well as students, for the first time since April of 2004. I will have more observations of students I'm sure as the term goes on, but my thoughts thus far are tied up with my strange place in the UK higher ed "system." the bottom line is this: although it is my module (trans. course) and I am alone in teaching it, I feel oddly out of control of its form. in the US I could have a discussion day, make my own assessments of the students through various means, create small assignments along the way to give them feedback, have library days where we talked about research methods...these things are gone. I have no assessment tools (which are also teaching tools) other than a 2500 word essay at the end of term (for which I was required to generate questions before the module started) and an exam, during which they will answer two questions out of six provided.

In addition, one lectures twice/week for 50 minutes (which is basically no time at all. I'm getting warmed up at about 47 minutes, needless to say) and then the students do presentations for 15 minutes at "seminars" which meet four times during the term. These are for discussion, instruction in a smaller group setting, and for the students to present their thoughts orally. again, I thought about doing something different there, but didn't want to buck the trends entirely.

given this situation, and then on top of it all given that the module is in politics and let's face it, I'm an historian, means that I feel like I have no idea how to teach within these parameters. I am told that I should not be worried about this, that teaching is not valued here and that I should spend as little time as possible on this as I am not getting paid much. this is wise advice (from the higher ups, no less). and yet I still need to "own" the module a bit more. I imagine this will come as I get into it. we'll see.

More on the trotskyite/marxist student in the class next time I reflect on this subject...

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