Thursday, December 10, 2015

German Media and the Refugee Crisis

Bild cover, Aug. 29, 2015
Courtesy Bild

Recently, I helped an honors program student in my upcoming GERM 2020 course design an independent research project. Since he will be studying at the University of Aachen next academic year  and since he hopes to join the foreign service later, I suggested he develop a project on the Syrian refugee crisis, its global context, and the role that the city of Aachen is playing as it develops. He will contact (and hopefully volunteer at) a refugee shelter in Aachen, but while he is gathering background information about the social, political, and cultural impact of the crisis, I'll be sure to share this article with him:  

Unfortunately the article is not in German, but it does explore how the cultural institution (for better or worse) that is Germany's Bild newspaper is shifting with popular opinion.

Any other suggestions for where my student should start with this project?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

STEM Teaching MOOC complete, Achievement unlocked

I might have to print this out and hang it in my office. 

I just received an electronic certificate of accomplishment for completing "An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching". It was a great experience on a number of different levels:

First, I wanted to investigate the learner experience and the pedagogic structure of a MOOC. I will be teaching an online version of my general education course (GERM 2520 German Culture and Civilization) this coming spring, so this course offered many insights into both sides of the online delivery model.

Second, I saw this course as a great opportunity to learn more about instructional methods in the STEM fields. Having left science, math, and engineering behind so long ago, I was curious to see how STEM educators today prepare their students for the real-world application of course content. Unfortunately, most of my STEM colleagues I told about the course here at Tech were not able to complete it along with me, so we did not get to discuss methods or to collaboratively create learner experiences. Nevertheless, my colleagues (Chem Engineering, Geology, and Physics) and I did find time to have an hour-long discussion about the most valuable parts of the course which might have inspired them to take this course the next time it is offered.

Third, I wanted to insure that my instructional methods still reflect the best practices across the disciplines. I am constantly on the lookout for professional development opportunities like this, especially since we haven't had a teaching workshop here at Tech for a while now. Years ago, a course design workshop at the University of Virginia inspired me to adapt Eric Mazur's ConcepTest model to my humanities classroom, and I continue to find ways to integrate similar tools into my classroom. The ConcepTest model remains invaluable to me as a formative assessment and peer instruction tool, and it was vital to my flipped classroom (GERM 1010) this past semester  Once I receive my course evaluations, I will be able to share some of my methods and results. Look for that in a future post.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Happy Ghosts of Seminars Past

Student-designed promotional flyer for our production of Woyzeck (Spring, 2010, University of Virginia's Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures). I remember how matter-of-fact the students were in justifying their gestures in this image. By the end of the semester (when this picture was taken), they and all the other student actors knew their characters so well. 
While freeing up space on an old USB drive this morning, I found this artifact from my years as a lecturer at the University of Virginia. In this upper-level course, we analyzed and then produced one great staging of B├╝chner's Woyzeck. The one post-dramatic choice that all the students felt comfortable with was beginning and ending the performance with the same scene, ("ein guter Mord, ein echter Mord").

As our performances made clear, so many students made such large strides in this course. I can't tell you how many times initially timid students tell me in their final reflective essay that they wish they had tried out for a larger part. The experience gave them so much more confidence in their German, as a similar experience at the University of South Carolina had for me.