Week 10/11 Reflections

The near end-of-the-semester doldrums dissipated with the introduction of the final project in ENG 252 and ENG 298. Both courses appear to have some late life left in them as a result. Project requirements ask for students to focus on an issue of their interest within the focus of the course, writing studies and game studies respectively. Beyond posting initial proposals to their blogs for peer and instructor approval, the final project asks for pecha kucha presentations prior to a first project draft. There was some initial resistance to this aspect alone, with students expressing surprise at the strict requirements and others suggesting slight variations of the established rules. For perhaps the first time in the semester, I was immovable to any suggested changes, which some interpreted as anger or frustration. Class sessions focused on the discussion of final projects proved to be some of the most energetic and interesting of the semester, but not just because I kept saying no to possible variants of pecha kucha. The level of engagement missing from previous weeks made a triumphant return, I think, as students thought aloud and online about possibilities. Freed of blogging and reading about predetermined subjects, which I intended as preparation for final projects, many students showed great willingness to move forward in creative and critical ways.

For as glad as I am about students taking to their final projects with some degree of gusto, I'm concerned about the timing of such work. It is normal for most all college-level courses to conclude with some larger project, but the effect of this often means overwhelming students more than usual. While we might justify such work by saying that which does not kill us makes us stronger, I want to entertain the idea of having students complete final projects in future courses two weeks before the semester's end. In earlier posts, I observed how the constant grind of blogging and reading didn't sharpen students' resolve but dulled their senses. Perhaps an earlier introduction of the final project could work as a preemptive attack then. Having a calmer last two weeks, too, would also leave students more time to reflect on the course and their performance as well as to complete their final projects in other courses.

Such a change would be most welcome in 513, given reactions to my suggestion of taking a figurative, collective deep breath after the completion of midterm essays. While I think some viewed this as another step toward full dissolution, I'm hopeful that the next session will be more of a return to proper form. Right now, I think the course suffered and, to a certain degree, continues to suffer under the weight of great expectations, both mine and those of certain students, and also how some of those expectations remained unspoken for the majority of the semester. As observed in previous reflective posts, the level of prescription could, and perhaps should, have been higher from the beginning. The majority of the class still appears to be learning and getting something helpful out of the course. At this point, the lone apparent sensible thing for any of us to do is just ride out the avalanche.