I incorporate student feedback in my courses as frequently as I can. I ask students to provide anonymous feedback on four areas: things to consider starting in the class, things to consider stopping in the class, things to do more of in the class, and things to do less of in the class. In my first-year courses, this feedback comes at the end of each writing unit. The feedback I get runs the gamut from the completely absurd (stop using chalk) to the cliche (less writing). However, these more cliche and absurd responses are often in places where students do not have suggestions, and they balance well with the more realistic feedback (more peer reviews). My first-year students completed their feedback cards last week, and there was a definite trend in their feedback that never appeared in previous classes.
The students want to start a few new things in class including group projects a class breakfast, and the students want to stop doing individual projects. They want to do more group activities and less individual projects. From their syllabus, the students knew weeks ago that their next project contained a collaborative element, and they became anxious about this project. Our family time sessions often included comments about starting the project, but not the traditional reluctance. My students seem to hunger to collaborate with their peers. I was excited about starting the project, but I was also apprehensive. The project asks students to work with their established peer groups, and I was apprehensive that class workshops would prove less focused and more chatty since the peer groups are now comprised of friends, not nameless peers. I stand corrected. Class time on Friday, the first group workshopping day, proved quite successful to progress on the group project, and observing the students working emphasizes that the community building we started the first day of class plays a significant role in this productive work. Continue reading “First-Year Communities and the Group Project”