Do You Experiment?

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Do you ever experiment? Experiment where it counts, when you could fail in public? I experiment every year in the classroom, trying new teaching methods and approaches.  Believe me, I know it when they bomb.

As we approach the fall teaching semester, I’ve been working on my course plans.  I’m trying four new ideas.  One is technology based, one is research based, one is assessment based and one is instructional method based.

I often have expert guests come to class.  Many of my expert guests are from Toronto, a couple of hours away.  This year, I’m going to experiment by having them video Skype or DimDim (a free online collaboration tool) for their guest discussion. I’ve never done this before, so this could be a complete disaster!

The second thing I’m doing is reducing the amount of feedback I’m providing to students.  Research shows that too much feedback is as bad as no feedback. I used to spend hours generating notes for students to help them improve their work. They wouldn’t read them, demand higher grades and then give me a 4 out of 7 on my teaching evaluation for “provides good feedback”.

I also eliminated final exams in two of my courses.  Instead, there are some killer individual assignments during the course. I’m not convinced that final exams measure anything except a student’s ability to memorized and regurgitate, then promptly forget.

Finally, I’ve eliminated lectures in one of my courses.  Replaced the lectures with exercises, research project, class discussion, problem based learning and cases. The students will truly hate this. Well, not all students, but many of them. Talk about flying without a net.  This should be fun!

Change is scary, especially when there is a risk of public failure. But willingness to change helps us get better at what we do. So what do you plan to experiment with this year?


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