Pedagogical Maneuvers Through Space and Time

Aw, that’s just a fancy way of saying, I’m organizing the semester schedule for the big “intro to grad studies”-ish lecture course I’m teaching this fall — the same one I taught last semester, but this time with three times as many students.

I figured the easiest way to work out the schedule would be to post everything here, where I can update regularly so everyone knows what dates have been spoken for and which are still available. So let me do that:

  • October 3?: Short presentation on “how to read theory”?
  • October 10?: Short presentation on methods?

Focus Area Presentations – available dates:

  • October 17: Social Media & Social Change (Geert Lovink)
  • October 24: Media & International Affairs (Carol Wilder + Vietnam Program Students)
  • October 31: Film Form (Student Guests)
  • November 14: Doc Studies (Deirdre Boyle)
  • November 21: Sound Studies & Acoustic Environments (Barry Salmon + Guests TBD)
  • November 28: Media Management (Paul Hardart + External Guest TBD)
  • December 5: Media & the Urban Environment (Me + Alumni Guests)

Back in the spring, we took some time in our April 11 class to discuss the students’ experience in the course, and to solicit their recommendations for how the class could be revised to better serve them. I got some well-meaning-but-not-really-feasible recommendations (no, you can’t submit a video project in lieu of your literature review), as well as some really-insightful-and-totally-feasible suggestions, most of which I plan to work into the fall syllabus. The Instructors and I also met for a debriefing after the semester ended, and they, too, offered some fantastic recommendations. Here are some of the changes I plan to implement:

  • When students submit their abstract assignment, we’ll ask them also to submit 5-7 keywords that will guide their research for the rest of the semester. This forces them to define their database search terms early on, so the Instructors and I can make sure they’re using language that will enable them to conduct the most effective searches.
  • Incorporate a “stepping stone” assignment between the abstracts and the lit review. This seemed to be too big of a conceptual and methodological leap for most students. We’ll now include an annotated bibliography — which is essentially a list of abstracts, which will then be “processed” into a lit review — in-between the two existing assignments.
  • Rather than leaving all the intro “research basics” lectures to myself and waiting until the second half of the semester to bring in most of the guest presenters, I’ll weave in some mini guest lectures on “research basics” topics during some of our early classes. That way, students will still be exposed to the “how to research, read, and write like a grad student” stuff they need to hear early on, but they’ll get to hear it from people other than me. This diversity of presenters will expose students to others’ research models — but it’ll demonstrate that the need to think critically about research, starting early on in one’s grad career, is something that all faculty agree upon.
  • I’ll bring in more advanced current students to talk about their experiences in the program and to offer advice. My first-semester students asked for this in the spring, so, in the final three weeks of the semester, I whipped together an “Ambassador” program, which involved ten advanced students visiting the five discussion sections. These visits would be better scheduled at the middle of the semester, before students choose their spring courses, so for the fall, I’ll organize the visits for mid- to late October.
  • Some weeks the Instructors and students said they had little to discuss in their discussion sections. So we’ll just eliminate the superfluous discussion section meetings in the second half of the semester, when students are for the most part working independently on their own literature reviews and final projects. We agreed that we’ll meet weekly during the first half of the semester and, for the second half, every other week.
  • I’ve always tried to reinforce the point that research is not a concern or practice that’s exclusive to academics. Our discussions of research design pertain to producers and artists, too — particularly producers and artists who are developing their “craft” within the context of a liberal arts-oriented MA program. Yet some more professionally-oriented students still have trouble making the connection, so I’m aiming to include even more examples of artists whose work is clearly theoretically informed and/or research based, and producers whose work involves serious research.
  • I’ve also posted “tips” sheets for both our guest presenters and the discussion section Instructors. I had several versions of these documents floating around, so I figured I might as well just put it online and update it each semester as needed.


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