...But for now, so is the fear.
The presentations and papers showed a lot of good things. Following the presentations and the paper due date, all on Oct. 1, we did a journal in class on big index card of how the groups and individuals chose readings, an online journal entry on the group's process (very eye-opening!) and an AAR on the following Monday.
Everyone in class on the day of the presentation, no matter how shy or nervous, spoke during the presentations, by agreement within the groups. They stood in front, on camera together and supported one another. The groups organized their presentations by giving a dictionary definition, reporting on and sometimes analyzing each reading,and giving a summary with their own definition and some analysis to support it. Three groups chose to use PowerPoint, and the only things read directly
from the slides were quotes they wanted to point out. One group agreed
to speak from notes, not PowerPoint. Quite a few spoke directly from
annotations in their books.
The papers followed a similar format, with more analysis of the question and article the student had and repeating the PowerPoint of the other groups' conclusions. There were a few notable exceptions who explained their own views on the other groups' conclusions. Everyone's writing was understandable and clear, with no unnecessary repetition or padding to meet a length requirement.
Reading and commenting on these was a new experience for me. Without having to assign a grade, I found my comments coming out in a much more positive tone. I've always pointed out what's right in a paper, and now issues like missing citations or Works Cited become a suggestion for improvement to make life easier when we go to writing to communicate in the final paper. It's a whole different experience than reading a good paper and then having to deduct points for it lacking important items specified in the instructions.
With limited time for preparation, there were no sources from outside the book, although many students read more than one reading to find one that would be relevant to their group's question, interesting themselves and to other students hearing the presentation, and of a manageable length for understanding. I was impressed that the majority annotated at least the reading they concentrated on, and several annotated others. Curiosity was evident. Many listed interesting or provocative title high in their prioritized factors for choosing readings.
The group processes were better than I thought. In the journal entries, I discovered that much of the off-topic noodling that concerned me so much was the students' way of getting to know one another better, in order to build comfort level. My decision to let most of that go was based on work experiences of digressing to peoples' weekend plans, pictures of grandchildren, or Derek Jeter's last home game, then getting back to the task at hand. I'm still not used to the spread-out physical arrangements and dipping in and out of the electronics that they prefer, and interpreted this as some people being marginalized from groups. However, the students who appeared to be on the sidelines stated that they were very much included in their groups. Based on honest observations from these individuals in other situations, I believe that they are telling the truth.
The thing that worries me the most is that there was no mention of the "prickly" (using Quinnipiac Magazine's term) social factors that contribute to one's identity, such as race, gender, sexual orientation. There was some mention of economic class and differences of opportunity in the group discussions and a little of that made it into the presentations.
This post is getting long, so I'll talk about the AAR separately.