Update on the Experiment – 1

I haven’t posted much this semester on my pedagogical experiment. There’s a reason for that: I spent a fair amount of time last summer prepping for the Fall course, specifically thinking about how I could radically revise its teaching. Unfortunately, I didn’t have near enough time during the semester break to prep adequately for the Spring semester. In particular, I was unable to carefully review my lecture notes for the semester in order to determine what material was covered well in the text, what material I could provide to the students to learn on their own, and what material really needed to be covered in class. When I began the Spring term, I hoped (perhaps optimistically) that I’d be able to find the time to do it on the fly during the semester.

That lead to the second problem: during the Fall semester when I began the experiment, I was on a reduced teaching load. The time off allowed me the opportunity to reflect regularly on the course and to make near real-time adjustments. (It seems appropriate that since an important part of my course innovation was to teach my students to think metacognitively, that I would be doing the same thing myself.)

During the Spring semester, when I was back to a full time teaching load (4 courses per term at UMW), I found I was unable to spend much time thinking about the course. Indeed by mid-semester, I had ceased any changes to the course content, and instead simply plowed through, and somewhat mindlessly (compared to the Fall semester) presented my traditional lectures.

This was reflected in my lack of blog postings. It wasn’t simply that I didn’t have the time to blog, but more importantly, I had nothing to say since I had halted my teaching reflection. This is not surprising as it reflects one of the fundamental principles of economics–there is no free lunch: every decision has an opportunity cost. By teaching one more course, the quality of my other courses diminished.

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