Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Faculty Projects – The Ever Ubiquitous Deadline

Professor: Patti See

Department:  Student Success Center: Developmental Education Courses

Name of Group: Successful Teaching Practices: Group Work

For those in the world who shudder, cringe, or tip over the nearest office printer upon hearing the word “deadline,” the rather morbid etymology of this everyday phrase may come as little surprise: originating from the American Civil War, a “dead line” was a literal line that prisoners of war were not allowed to cross, under penalty of death. This bleak association with the phrase carries well into the academic world, where every semester students (and faculty alike) struggle, sweat, and figuratively (or literally) bleed in order to meet the mountains of deadlines piled up on their respective desks.

But the contemporary deadline is not a form of purposeless torture: deadlines can be used to one’s advantage as a constructive form of organization, a way to stay on task. They can also become less intimidating if they are coupled with deadlines along the way: in this manner, an enormous project ceases to become one huge undertaking and instead a series of smaller, more manageable steps. An idea gathered from CETL’s group entitled “Successful Teaching Practices: Group Work,” Patti See, from the Student Success Center, anticipates this addition in her semester long documentary project:

"If I Knew Then What I Know Now: Advice for Next Semester’s GEN 201 Students” is a group final project to create a documentary of students’ experiences as they regain good standing.  They are to work in groups of three to five and include pictures, video, voice narration, music, etc. to create a video.  They also are to write a one page reflection on this project, explaining the group dynamics, members’ roles, what they’d do differently, and what they learned.

This past semester I realized that simply because students wrote down their plans they didn’t necessarily follow through. A number of students said that they didn’t actually START filming until the beginning of finals week (our final was on a Friday). This spring I intend to have two deadlines: one at midterm in which I ask students to turn in a short version of their advice documentary, and one during the final exam in which they turn in the completed one.  This also allows students to map their progress throughout the term, since the main goal of the course is to keep the students on track to regaining good standing. Students in GEN 201 really struggle with deadlines, and, as one of my Fall 2014 students pointed out, if I require them to get something done half way through the term, the final project is not as stressful."

She ends by briefly advocating the CETL group process:

"Though I had done group projects in my classes for years, I was able to tweak this semester-long project with much of the information learned in the CETL group.  At the end of the fall term, I also asked my students after they completed their projects what would have made this process work more smoothly.  They had excellent advice, which also supported what I’d learned in the CETL group."

Write up by Jon Pumper

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