“Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” (Samuel Beckett)

To my students in English 503:

In our final meeting last week, we had a really good conversation about the things that went well in the course, but I also wanted to hear about what I could have done better. Some of our successes and failures were in my control, as the designer of our course — so I asked the students who were there for their feedback on what parts of my course design and delivery they would have done differently. This is your chance to add to that feedback if you weren’t there, or amend it if you were.

I’ll use this advice the next time I teach *any* advanced seminar integrating presentations & social media, as ours did.

Here are my (bulleted) notes based on our conversation. Please add your clarifications, additions, revisions, constructive criticism, &c. in the comments.

And thanks again for your honesty, forbearance, and collaborative energy. Someday I’ll teach a seminar with a collaboratively-written constitution like this one.

  • More regular feedback on students’ writing. There was too long of a wait to get grades on blog posts, for instance.
  • More links between the informal writing (online) and the more formal research -paper writing.
  • Better integration of the theoretical & historical texts with the novels. The narrative unity of two long novels could have been replaced by shorter excerpts from primary texts (stories, poems, plays, novel chapters, nonfiction) that complemented the theory/history.
  • Initially the course felt confusing & overwhelming.
  • Maybe there could be a choice between tweeting and commenting on peers’ blog posts. There were perhaps too many posts required. There should also be an option to get credit for replying to peers’ tweets, not just posting more questions.
  • In general there were too many ideas being circulated/generated for the time we had to address them.


About ullyot

Assistant Professor of English and Associate Dean (Teaching & Learning), Faculty of Arts; University of Calgary; early modernist + digital humanist.
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