Archive for September 5th, 2010

Teaching classes of 60-70 in grad school I rarely had what I would consider a “bad” class.  Sure, there were different dynamics from semester to semester, but I never disliked my classes as a whole.  That changed last spring.  One of the things I quickly noticed about teaching classes with 25-35 students is that the dynamics are not that different than in a class of 65.  The caveat to this is that in a large class there are always at least a handful of students who are engaged and can help move discussions along.  In my spring class there were only one or two of these students and it was not enough to preserve the overall class dynamic.

This fall I am teaching a similar course (required for the major, not much student interest in the topic itself) and my early sense is that this group of students, if left unchecked, could have a dynamic similar to that of my spring class.  One of my efforts to prevent this has involved individual meetings with students.  The funny thing is that in one-on-one interactions, all of the students I have met with so far have seemed interested and engaged in sociology and learning, if not the actual subject of the course.  In class, however, this interest and engagement disappears when they get near their friends.  It appears, then, that in this situation, my class is less than the sum of its interesting, engaged, individual parts.  We’ll see how it goes.

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