Sunday, February 7, 2010

My opinions about the 1st half of the Spanish 365 course

My opinions of the course thus far are very mixed. I think the projects are interesting and worthwhile, but overestimated in the expectation that the students will be able to give satisfactory attention to anything. I think the students are spread very thin, and consequently their understanding of the material is merely superficial.

For myself, I originally wanted to take this course because it was required for the Spanish minor. That is it. Secondly, I would like to get off on the pure pleasure of reading some great literature. I do not want to use this opportunity to try to become a "super researcher", write articles, or work on group projects.

I think the course far overreaches what is considered to be a decent and challenging student workload. Just completing the readings I feel to be sufficient enough in getting exposure to the material.
Reading a couple hundred extra pages of didactic academic criticism is beyond tedious and somewhat circumstantial as a definitive source of interpretation.
I realize that students must learn to manage their time well and accept a heavy course load, but after 6 years as a full-time university student I can say that this course has been the heaviest. Don't forget this course is just one out of five that we're taking this semester!

However, in theory I think the objectives are worthy.

Writing weekly informal blogs forces us to quickly digest the readings and consequently we are more prepared for class discussion.
Writing comments to other's blogs gives us the chance to "tap in" to the general consensus and maybe gain insights from more astute peers.
Writing a WIKI article is an excellent way to absorb and regurgitate the material.

There are some problems with this class:

The workload is too ambitious: How are we supposed to understand deeply when we only read the material once & quickly? (because of obvious time constraints)
Class discussions are not productive when the instructor spends a very long time giving a monologue, then expects small groups to just pick it up where he left off:

What comprises a group of 4 students in our class? 1-2 people haven't even done the readings, 1-2 people are terrified to speak because of poor Spanish ability, and 1 person is a super keener who talks non-stop and intimidates the rest of the group.

I think it would be beneficial for the instructor to engage the class immediately, start eliciting general responses to the readings while guiding the questions in real time instead of during the last 15 mins. of class.

Also, because the students are juggling many different class responsibilities, I think the least amount of time is given to thoroughly reading the literature - we're compelled to worry about writing blogs & comments (700-900 words/week is ALOT) and researching secondary readings.

Why are we even given the choice to write in English? Most if not all but one WIKI group is doing their article in English - why? This is a Spanish course is it not? We should have the ability to think and express ourselves adequately in Spanish by now, but given the choice, we will choose English because it is easier. So there shouldn't be a choice.

The course is hard, but not in the ways that it should be - and yet it cops out and lets us default to English...strange...

I dread coming to this class more than going to the dentist even though Spanish is one of my strongest and favourite subjects. I feel like I'm just holding my breath and all I want is to finish this course the best I can given my current state of exhaustion and GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!