Testing pre-class learning

Students are required to read and think about the set content for each week. They are then supposed each email me a comment, question, query about something they don’t understand or on which they would like more information. I am loathe to make this a punitive exercise (attach marks to it) if they do not respond. At first I got a lot of comments, then a drop off, and then a build up again. At first I put down the rapid loss of interest in sending questions/queries to lack of interest in the subject because of the flipped design (in other words, a “failure”), but now I think it was due to two factors: a sudden bout of self-conscious about possibly submitting “silly” questions (a student comment); and a lack of confidence with some of the ideas, concepts and theories. But as we have progressed and we have “scaffolded up” into some of the difficult concepts, students seem more confident and the questions I get are more profound. For example: to explain the concept of “transculturation”, a very important (and contested) concept in Latin/o American studies, I first explain the origin of the word “culture” and the various ways it has been historically used. I then move to the genealogy of the term ‘transculturation” itself and its various appropriations and why theorists use it (its explanatory possibilities). I also apply the concept to similar phenomena in Australia, including Indigenous cultures, so that it does not seem so abstract. This means a slow approach to explaining key terms, concepts, theories and getting students to engage and feel comfortable with them. By placing the case study assignment due date in Week 7, I hope to give them all sufficient time to absorb such key concepts and theories and thus be able to reference them and use them with confidence in their assignments.

I also reminded them that there are no “silly” questions in my class – just questions.

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