Yesterday there was more hustle and bustle at work than I usually experience in the weeks before students are on campus--a wide variety of hustle and bustle.
I was not in my usual calm and collected place when I showed up at 2:00 to conduct a faculty development workshop on using haiku to assess student learning. It didn't help that the computer that I needed was not connecting to the Internet. Happily, my colleagues are a wonderful support network: one of them texted our IT expert, who showed up and got us connected.
I asked my colleagues to pretend we were taking a class on the solar system and that today's lecture was on the moons of Saturn. I asked them to turn off their devices. I told them they could take notes on what seemed significant in the lecture, and I said, "Or you can just watch the video and let yourself be overcome by the awe and wonder that the universe can inspire." I had not had a morning that left me full of awe and wonder.
I showed this TED video. When it was done, I asked them to stay silent and then to write their impressions onto the paper. Then I told them they could work alone or in groups.
I stressed that we were not in a poetry class, so I used the term "haiku" very loosely and not at all like the classic Japanese form. I asked them to write haiku to show what was most important about the video they just saw. I said the first line should be 5 syllables, the second line 7 syllable, and the third line 5 syllables.
As I expected, some struggled, while others wrote a multitude of haikus. I then had them write their haikus into a Word document that was projected onto the flat screen TVs. We had a wonderful variety.
We talked about whether or not this activity would be better for assessing student learning than anything more typical, like a quiz. We talked about how to assess it or assign points. We talked about how to tweak the assignment: perhaps adding visual images or having students do the activity across several class periods and then have them create a larger project.
I envisioned the activity as something done at the end of class to see what concepts the students thought to be most important--that way, if their view and my class objective for the day turned out to be radically different, I could correct. I think it would also be interesting to do it at the following class, to see what they retained from the previous class.
I had a great time leading the workshop and my colleagues seemed to enjoy it. I was surprised that very few of my colleagues seemed irritated or zoned out. Some are required to go to these sessions, but I couldn't tell from their behavior if they were there under duress or not. In short, although I didn't have an audience composed solely of people there because they truly wanted to be there, everyone acted like they were of their own free will.
I returned to my office restored and refreshed. My afternoon productivity skyrocketed, as did my mood. I do still love teaching, and yesterday was the best kind: a class full of smart and interesting people, a good hour of engaging material, and no grading to do.
I'm hoping that the good feelings from yesterday's session lingers today.
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