This week was finals week. In a grading break this morning I met with come colleagues to plan for the linked classes we will be teaching next quarter.
One of the exciting things about doing a class with other instructors is how much the experience improves one's own teaching. Just going through the process of planning the class helps me improve. Today I was trying to explain why I do particular assignments the way I do. My initial reasons for the assignments were good and I still feel confident in the assignments, but just articulating the intent of the assignments helped me identify a couple pieces of the assignments that could be streamlined or altered to be more clear to students.
The class I will be teaching next quarter is part of an IBEST model. It's too late at night for me to remember what IBEST stands for (Integrated Basic Education Some Thing), but it means that we are putting a cohort of students into a set of classes that includes developmental and college-level classes. My Art Appreciation class is the college-level class and my colleagues are teaching developmental reading, adult basic education writing and study skills. The same group of students who are taking these classes in the winter will move on to college-level drama, developmental writing, and ABE reading next quarter. The idea is that by the end of the two quarters these student will be at college level in their English and will already have 10 college level humanities credits. Most of these students would not yet be eligible for my Art Appreciation class because of their English scores.
Another exciting element of the IBEST class for me is that I am able to give some of the non-art related teaching tasks to my reading, writing and study skills colleagues. My usual Art Appreciation class requires students to be at almost-college-level English. Because they are not college-ready, I cannot expect them to write a college-level paper with citations. Since I think that writing this type of report is a reasonable expectation for a college-level Art Appreciation class, I help them build the writing and the citations throughout the quarter. This coming quarter, however, I will not be required to teach them to do citations because my colleagues will do that part.
I am also looking forward to my colleagues helping the students learn to navigate their textbooks and build their non-art vocabulary. I don't really have time to help the whole class understand what is meant by the word "describe" as opposed to "identify" in a test question. I also don't have time to make sure they understand all the terms from their research. Today, while reading a paper, it became clear to me that at least one student did not know what it meant to "impersonate" someone. But I don't think that my class time is the appropriate place to develop that vocabulary. When I have to decide between teaching the content of the class or trying to build the students skills and understanding up to college level, something gets lost.
Next quarter will be an interesting opportunity to discover how much content I can move through if I don't have to spend time with the other stuff. It will also be interesting to see how this cohort of under-prepared students does in the class compared to my typical group of slightly more prepared students who are not taking the set of connected classes.