(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program blog; the views expressed are my own and not those of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

So How Was Your First Class?

Așa și așa.  Which translates, "so-so."
I had four students, out of seven.  The other three were still planning on participating and had paired up on the project with students who were attending.  So we got the semester project assigned; the groups had done some discussion among themselves about which NGO they wished to study.
As I had been warned, they thought the weekly reading quizzes were... unusual.  They were too polite to imply anything stronger.  I'd been warned that students here are not accustomed to working on class assignments every week; in most classes, apparently, they come to listen to a four hour lecture and work on the class project independently toward the end of the semester, then take a final exam.
I talked about my teaching philosophy: how in our kind of discipline, "knowing how" is more important than "knowing about" (summary of Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1986), and this class is focused on them learning how to do some important skills in program evaluation.  I also said that knowing how to do something assumes applying some concepts and learning some common knowledge, "knowing that" stuff. So before I could help them do something, I had to make sure they knew some things.
And that I was more interested in knowing that they knew some fundamental knowledge by the end of class, so the quizzes would be in a pre-test/post-test format, and they could take the grade after they had filled in their lack of understanding.
The class topic was how to do a logic model, a visual description of the needs, goals, activities, performance, and impact of a NGO.  They discussed politely. I passed out cookies as an instructional activity; they thought that was unusual and politely ate some cookie. The instructional activity was to order the steps in making cookies according to inputs (people, ingredients), activities (preheat oven, mix ingredients) and outcomes (happy bakers).  They organized the pieces of paper, more or less, with some confusion on people slips in the input (baker) and in the outcome (happy baker) columns.  And they didn't understand the joke (from the canned handout) about Cookie Monster.  When I asked them then to complete a logic model on the inputs, activities and desired outcomes for their NGO project, they sort of lost energy to complete the exercise as we were approaching (30 min) our end time.  It felt like we were in the picture "The Persistence of Memory" by Salvador Dali.
The Persistence of Memory, by Salvador Dali
The second class, the Juvenile Delinquency class the next night, had much more energy.  I had 25 students, they asked lots of questions and expressed opinions of US criminal justice system.  Presenting data from a juvenile justice study I participated in, I presented the top 8 juvenile crimes, the most frequent were Child in Need of Supervision (truancy, runaway, liquor violation), trespassing, grafitti... we had to get to number 6, assault, before they thought these were really crimes.  So, "why do you call all these misbehaviors crimes," seems like a relevant question to me.  I didn't have an answer: why are three kids who climbed the fire escape of Cambridge Elementary treated like criminals and get a criminal record that will follow them for the rest of their life?  I came home much more energized.

1 comment:

  1. BTW it's "asa si asa" (ah-shah she ah-shah) not "asi" which is pronounced "osh" and means something else :D