I asked my students to write about how they define success for their research projects in my Modern Middle East class. Before I read through the answers, I thought I should answer the question myself about the course. This is a new class for me to teach, and I am implementing some new techniques. There is no single due date for the project – it will be done when my students believe it is. I am allowing students to blog process rather than create a final summative piece. I am putting together readings rather than using a book. Current events and student interest is driving the curriculum. I began the course knowing I wanted to start by looking at Syria and Egypt, but after that we have been creating the curriculum as we go. In this week before Spring Break, I am allowing students get some traction by working on their projects.
I will consider this class a success if the seniors stay with me until the end. I am tailoring my out of class expectations to account for some senioritis in the fourth quarter. I am expecting that all of my students will be able to talk to me about current events; they will have enough context to understand the issues and know how to find out more. Some students have noted that their own visions of success depend to some extent on other people, such as reading and following their blogs. The same holds true for me. My feeling of success depends on my students. If they achieve the goals they have set for themselves, I will feel like my class has been successful. If we all achieve what we want from this course, that will be an amazing feeling.
After finishing the above thoughts I went to read through what my students posted as their goals. I was really impressed with the thought that they put into the assignment. Some expressed rather vague goals, but now I have the opportunity to provide feedback to try to get them focused. A few students cited educating their peers about their topic as a goal. One girl will measure success by how well she can organize and execute a presentation to the class. Some of the bloggers believe followers and comments to be signs of success, but acknowledged they have little control over that. All of the students strive for a deep understanding of their topic in general, but some went further to try to know what that would look like. One student wanted to read new material and be able to form his own opinion based on his knowledge of the issues. Another noted that she would be done when she hit the point that her research began to repeat. One student noted that her project could never be done – it something that is ongoing. I told them they would need to measure themselves against their own standards, as well as mine.
I am glad I asked the question – of my students and myself. If you are interested, here is the link to the class symbaloo, which includes links to the student blogs for the class at the center of the top.