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Getting Started….

September 1, 2017

This first week has been an adjustment week for all of us. My Freshman Seminar class (2 sections) meets twice a week for 50 minutes. I have two upper-classmen who help with the class and serve as a combination of TA and peer mentor. I’m used to teaching twice a week for 75 minutes and 50 minutes goes by very quickly. In addition, I drastically underestimated the time that it would take to walk through the syllabus. This was compounded by the fact that I’m using an open source-based  Code of Conduct as part of the syllabus which is new to freshman. The result of this was that we spent the entire first class going over course organization.

In the spirit of Open Organization, in the second class we collaboratively designed the Late Assignment policy and the Absence policy, one per section. I outlined the problem and the constraints and teams of students proposed ideas. We then listed all of the ideas and discussed briefly and eliminated the ones that wouldn’t work. In one class we voted on a solution and we’ll vote electronically on the other as we ran out of time.

This was an interesting exercise and gave me insight into student thoughts. I learned that coming to consensus when doing design in large groups (13 students per section) is difficult and that having more time to focus and refine ideas would be helpful. For instance, one initial proposed solution for the Late Assignment policy was “Two days after the due date you lose points” which resulted in a discussion about what is an appropriate due date and time and how many points should be lost. I’m now debating the value of more clearly defining the problem versus allowing students to work through these issues.

Another difference in thinking between myself and my student assistants and the freshman is the idea of “lateness”. The proposals for when someone was late for class included:

  • Being late means 5-15 minutes is late, after 15 minutes is absent
  • 3-20 minutes is late, after 20 minutes is absent
  • 5-20 minutes is late, after 20 minutes is absent

We’ll talk next week about what does it mean to arrive 3-5 minutes after the start of class. What do we call that time after the beginning of class but before one is late? In addition, students thought that up to six total absences and latenesses should be allowed, not including legitimate absences/lateness for things like illness and sports travel.

We’ll do continuous improvement and revisit these policies in five weeks to see how they are working and to adjust as needed.

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