Involving students in the learning process
I believe that students have a lot to contribute to the development of a course and its learning outcomes, which is why I try to involve students in their own learning.
For my Immigration & Religion course, I therefore contacted already enrolled students before the end of the spring semester to find out what specific topics they were interested in related to our fall course. Their responses helped me decide which readings to assign. During the semesters, I encouraged students to share previously gained knowledge with all of us, and at mid-semester, I gave students 3 minutes each to present their current research status for the final project. This was followed by 3 minutes in which the rest of the class asked questions or made suggestions to help the student improve the project. I was pleasantly surprised at how many beneficial ideas they offered each other.
For my courses on Nation & Immigration, I ask students to introduce themselves using their experiences of living abroad, having a passport, needing a visa, knowing migrants personally, and their favorite movie or novel that deals with migration in some way. Throughout the semester, I encourage students to provide examples illustrating an aspect of the topic of discussion from their own environment or life experiences. Along with requesting anonymous feedback during the semester, these practices allow me to gauge the students’ interests and concerns, what previous knowledge they bring to the classroom, and therefore, in what ways I can best facilitate their learning.
For one of my Western Civilization courses, I began the semester by requiring students to write down their goals for the course based on specific questions I provided. This was not only intended to help students make conscious decisions about how they intended to treat this required course that carried a negative reputation among students, but also to allow me insights into the students’ expectations of the course and my role in their learning. I ended the course with an extra credit assignment to describe whether they had met the goals set at the beginning. The submissions were quite satisfying, and with the students’ permission, some of their responses were later printed in the newsletter of the Humanities & Western Civilization Program.