Sunday, October 12, 2014

Week 8: Review Week - Spring 15

The Week 8 Review Week went even better in the Spring 2015 semester with a more clear set of assignments, so I've updated this post to explain my current strategy.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION. There are two review weeks in my classes each semester: Week 8 and Week 15. The idea is to promote some self-reflection, looking both backward and forward, while also soliciting feedback and suggestions from the students — suggestions for me, and also suggestions for future students. The workload is also much lighter, saving the students two or three hours of time. We all need a break for humpweek, after all! The semester has a very nice symmetry now as a result: Orientation Week (Week 1), six reading weeks (Weeks 2-7), Review Week (Week 8), six more reading weeks (Weeks 9-14), and then a Final Review Week (Week 15).


Instead of the usual Monday-Thursday assignments (reading, reading diary posts, and a storytelling post), the Week 8 review week has four very simple assignments: three are blog posts in which students review their progress in the course so far, and one is a blog check-up:

Monday: Reading Review.
Tuesday: Writing Review.
Wednesday: Commenting Review.
Thursday: Blog Label Check-Up.

I thought it was pretty cool how the class really does exist along these three dimension. I could have added a Technology Review post also, but I figured the blog label check-up was really essential, and three reflection posts are enough. I'll do a Technology Review post at the end of the semester, though, because it will fit nicely there, and the students don't need a blog check-up at that time.

Of course, these assignments can all be done at once, and some students did indeed do all of them at once, freeing up the rest of the week for other things. For most students the blog check-up required no real work at all, although it served a very useful purpose for students who either were having trouble with their blog labels and/or people who had missed the Comment Wall assignment earlier in the semester.

For the Friday-weekend blog responding, there were no new Storytelling posts in Week 8, so I modified that assignment slightly: instead of commenting on Storytelling posts from the current week, students responded to these Review posts in each other's blogs.

HISTORY. My Indian Epics class has always had review weeks because of the way the reading was structured, with the Ramayana taking six weeks (Weeks 2-7) and the Mahabharata taking six weeks (Weeks 9-14). I felt like the students really needed a break in that class, both in order to help with the transition from one epic to the next, and also because the reading load is significantly heavier than in Myth-Folklore. But then as I thought about making changes to the classes for Fall 2014 (this has been a semester of some huge changes!), I decided that having review weeks would be great in Myth-Folklore also. I am very pleased with how that has turned out, and I am especially happy with the assignments as they have evolved over the past two semesters.

GOALS. Each of the individual assignments has its own goals, but overall some goals for this Review Week are:
* to prompt students to reflect on their work during the first half of the semester
* to encourage students to plan and strategize for the second half of the semester
* to solicit feedback and suggestions for me to use and also for future students
* to give students a break with a lighter workload during "humpweek"


I guess that when students see the word "review," the first word that pops into their minds would be: exam. And, of course, it does make sense to review for an exam. The more important role of review, however, is the role that it plays in any kind of learning experience. In my classes, I have no exams or tests, but I really believe in the value of review for learning. There are elements of reflection and review built into many of the class activities, and I am also really glad to have these review weeks in place for Weeks 8 and 15 also. I say "no" to exams... but I say "yes" to review!

For a graphic, here is something from David Kolb's model of experiential learning which I found in a wonderful post by Karen LaBonte: The Quest in the Quest-ions - reflecting is crucial!


  1. I'm totally stealing all of these ideas-- such lovely gentle ways to lead students into reflecting. Thanks!

  2. Hi Karen, it went so well! Which means I am just kicking myself for not having done this years ago, ha ha. I sometimes feel hesitant to make changes to the classes because I don't want to experiment on the students with something that isn't going to work out ... but I have had such good luck with all the experiments this semester. It has renewed my faith in experimenting! :-)

    1. I dunno, what's wrong with experimenting. Even if it goes awry, it can become a topic for exploring with the students. I'm a big believer in "There's no such thing as failure, only feedback."

  3. Well, the thing is that it is hard (sometimes impossible) to make mid-course corrections. I encourage students to make their own schedules, establish routines, etc. and I feel obliged to stick to that, which means I really can't be changing things around midway through. Luckily, I've never done anything that was so bad I felt I had to change it midway through the semester, but I have indeed had some experiments that lasted one semester only. :-)


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