Friday, April 30, 2010

News from the flying dinosaurs front

I've been talking this semester about my class in "flying dinosaurs studies," which has just ended, so I thought I'd share the results of an end-of-semester survey that I usually do so that I can choose texts for the next time. I did this in my other classes, too, with similar results. I ask them what their reactions were to what we read, what they'd like to read that we didn't read this semester, etc.
  • "I liked what we studied." I can live with this one.
  • "Why didn't we study the stegosaurus? I studied the stegosaurus in high school and wrote a paper on it for my class last year, and we study it in every dinosaur class ever offered, so why wasn't it included in this class?" What part of flying dinosaurs was unclear to you in the course description?
  • "I really wanted to study T.Rex. T. Rex rips things apart, and there's a lot of blood and cool stuff to look at with T. Rex. I've read about a hundred books on T. Rex, like everybody else in the class, so why didn't we study more about T. Rex? Also: zombies." What part of flying . . . oh, never mind.
  • "Why didn't we discuss the color of dinosaur claws in more depth? They are pretty. We talked about the wings a lot, but we only spent a little time talking about the claws." You've got me there.
Seriously, though, if they're given a choice between something they haven't read before and something they have, why do they go for the familiar text?


heu mihi said...

I'm totally with you, but...could it be the question? If you ask them what they would have liked to have read in the course, it seems unsurprising that they would go for things that they know--because how do they know if they would have liked to have read a text that they know very little/nothing about?

This could depend somewhat on the actual subject matter of the course, I suppose. But I wonder if there would be a way of phrasing the question like, "What questions about this topic remain unanswered for you?"

I wonder, too, whether your question was rhetorical...? After a day spent answering panicked student emails, my inclination is to REPLY without much filtering. On the upside, my WV is "anticomi."

undine said...

I love that question, heu mihi! I had given them some possibilities to help them along, but I like your question much better and will ask it next time.

Ink said...

"if they're given a choice between something they haven't read before and something they have, why do they go for the familiar text? "

Great question! Maybe because they liked it so much the first time? Or they liked feeling like an authority on it? Very interesting to ponder.

undine said...

I think both of those are the reasons, Ink. They may want to study it in more depth (my hope), or they may think that it's time saved from reading the text again since they've already done it, which leads to a lot of arms-crossed "I don't remember" responses when we talk about it in class.

takingitoutside said...

I wonder if there isn't a bit of fear in there too - "I read this for a similar course and we never mentioned it; was reading it a waste of time?"

undine said...

Interesting, takingitoutside; I'd never thought of it that way.