Wednesday, March 7, 2018

What to do when the magic isn't there

Have you ever had a class that just wasn't clicking? I started this post in a different semester and waited to hit publish. For some reason, something was amiss. Instead of writing it off, I decided there is always time for a turnaround.

Before the semester spirals away, here are suggestions:
  1. Don't panic. All is not lost. So many factors are at play in our courses. Not every course in every semester will be magical.
  2. Talk to a colleague, preferably a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL) fan. Your campus center for instructional innovation or teaching excellence likely has resources or mentors you could tap for inspiration. We mistakenly think of teaching as a solo mission. Others have been there and done that. Reach out and ask.
  3. Survey your students. Surprise! Your students may be feeling the disconnect, too. I use a three question anonymous online survey. Q1: What do you like about our class. Q2: What would you change? Q3: What else would you like to add? My students have thanked me for even thinking to ask them.
  4. Make notes so you don't end up in the same situation again. A colleague marks up the syllabus with ideas for the next semester. I love this idea! Do yourself a favor and keep a record. You'll thank yourself as you plan for future semesters.
  5. Take a look at yourself. Brace yourself for this...it might not just be the students. It could be something going on with you. Or maybe your class radar is a bit off. Are you getting burned out on that particular course? Is it time to infuse new techniques or learn something yourself? Professional development opportunities abound.
  6. Make changes. I don't think it's ever too late in the semester for interventions.
How did my class turnout? After surveying my students, I found that my perceptions of the course tanking were not as dire as I thought. See No. 5. Student perceptions were that the course was rocking along, with only a few small changes mentioned. With that panic behind me (see No. 1), I worked to incorporate student suggestions from the survey into our course design.