Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Rethinking Goals

I thought more about the goals, more about the class, and more about stuff last night, and realized that I hadn't put in some of the stuff I think is really important.

So here's some more brainstorming for Shakespeare:

1.  I want students to get better at reading and writing about difficult texts.  (Reading in terms of strategies for reading: looking up words, thinking about sentences, reading aloud, and so forth; writing in terms of putting the reading skills into words on paper.)

2.  Develop understanding of Shakespeare's work in relationship to standard literary genres, techniques, and style (Thanks, Sapience!)

 3.  I want students to get a sense of the historic, cultural, and social contexts of early modern theater. 

4.  I want students to begin to learn research (asking questions, finding information, reading critical articles for the argument).

One of the problems I have with these sorts of exercises is that over the course of 15 weeks, I want students to learn a lot, and to think hard, and to begin to put things together, but I know different things will stick with different students, and that I can't do everything, but that there are probably 20 things I want to stick with someone in some way.


  1. The important thing to keep in mind is that someone who looks at your syllabus may want to see how you are assessing your outcomes. So keep them simple; and you might want to check that your current essays/quizzes/etc, could be used to show these things. We have to have Course learning outcomes on our syllabus, and they hav to be tied to our Program Learning Outcomes. Fortunately, we don't have to assess what sticks! What I find strange about assessment stuff is that you read differently when you read for assessment: you will read an essay one way when you are grading it, but differently if you are looking for evidence that students know about genres. I do hope N&M are right that it's going out of fashion. For us, it's driven entirely by accreditation, and our agency has just pasted campus learning outcomes on to our requirements. So I'm less optimistic.

    1. My uni colleagues who study measurement tell me that there are big fights brewing within accreditors on this issue. Lots of push-back. But... they also say it'll be like 10 years before this is gone.

  2. I think a lot of these also sound like programme goals, things that are not JUST the responsibility of your module?

    And definitely the thing people look for (it's part of my admin job to do this!) is that there is a clear link, that students have the opportunity to demonstrate to you that they have achieved/progressed in that learning outcome. So for example if none of the assignments overtly expect them to write about Shakespeare in his historical context, for a chunk of the marks, then I would quietly leave that one aside from my stated outcomes.

    I and a few other colleagues have taken to adding a line in the first day of class about the 'longer term learning outcomes' (not written down in the syllabus!) along the lines of 'these official SLOs tell you what you need to demonstrate to do well in the assignments, so they are important. But the reason why I think this matters to you as -ologists and as people is...' or ' five years time what I expect you to remember is...' or "if at the end of this module you want to read another book by this person, or understand the arguments in this particular policy area, or can develop an opinion of your own from the data, then I'd be happy"...

  3. The thing is, say I ask an exam question about marriage in some plays. One student might do a great job writing an essay that contextualizes marriage historically, another might do a differently great job talking about queer theory and heteronormativity, and a third might do a totally different great job focusing on playing practices and cross-dressing in theater. All of them will have learned good stuff, thought about why it matters, and written well. But only one of them will hit that limited historical goal thing; the others hit the writing well about complex texts bit. And then maybe I need to add a goal about theoretical understandings?

  4. I think what you do is say something about being able to choose an appropriate lens through which to read the plays. Then it covers those who do theory and those who do history. But working backwards from your essay prompts and exam questions will be the lowest stress approach. And I'm hoping nicoleandmaghie is right! One of my colleagues spent sear of his life pushing back on our accreditor, so now we get to do the assessment of overall learning at the campus level, instead of sending work to outside evaluators.