The Semester Story was a three-day, multimodal activity (in preparation for the Final Exam) that I first created/deployed in a non-survey, non-major American Literature course (17 students) in Spring 2018. Its curation started with two writing process research studies (re)calibrated via posthumanism and has become just one concrete strategy/assignment in my toolbox that not only helps me more ethically and responsibly observe and assess the classroom as a whole but also offers students the chance to research and assess their own learning and growth–the story of their semester–using data they’ve been creating and curating for months. The Semester Story played a huge role in my dissertation and is, to my mind, a practical distillation of what teaching elsewhere can be. The below recording was my first time presenting on this assignment (March 2020) outside of my defense and offers a (very) brief introduction to the concept of it, particularly the two composition studies articles it started from.
Quick (10-15 min tops), only needs a whiteboard and markers, big impact potential. Anonymous part not critical, but I think it did give us better results. If you’re cool with the vulnerability of winging it, I highly recommend as a check-in/calibration tool.
At least 30 min (can adjust). Used a whiteboard, timer on my phone, 8 1/2 x 11 card-stock I had in the office, a sharpie, tape, foil star stickers, a deck of cards, desks moved into pods of 4-5, enough notebook paper and index cards for the number of students enrolled. Movement/Activity: More than Moderate. I highly recommend as a data gathering activity and alternative to a more traditional paper/written first-day survey. Huge impact: determined parts of the curriculum and gave me a feel for how we intra-acted as a group with this particular spacetime.
“And yet when essays draw on the work of Barad or Haraway but do not attend to nonhuman life, environments and material agencies, the lack is notable. Feminist materialisms, especially in their posthuman forms, are worlds apart from the conventional classroom, an all too-human place cordoned off from more-than-human liveliness. The chasm between the two suggests how intrepid and inventive we must be to teach with a (posthumanist) feminist materialism”
–Stacy Alaimo / “Book Review: Teaching with Feminist Materialisms” (179)
Last week, I sat down with a really quiet small group in class where one student was pulling all the weight. Normally, I try to stay out of their conversations, but this was painful to watch, and I had to do something. That something ended up being me and the Student having a great conversation while the groupmates looked on in silence (no matter what we did–and Student tried just as hard–to try and pull them into the conversation). So, big fail in that sense. But there was also a win: I got to hear Student’s guess at what metaphor Thomas King might use for stories (we were talking about how Azar Nafisi calls books orphans and Neil Gaiman tells the story of Douglas Adams claiming books are sharks, and we were wondering what the other author’s we’d read might say on the matter).