On Tuesday Su organised a meeting to discuss the ideas to be brought forward next week at her Small Changes, Big Difference event in the Sociology Department next week. Apparently there’s a lot of course restructuring going on in Sociology at the moment, a good opportunity to work a bit of IBL into the new regime.
Most of the ideas we discussed centred around ways to make better use of small group tasks to give students more responsibility for their own seminars. A recurrent problem was the issue of encouraging students take actions which in an IBL sense ought to be student-led. We talked about the implications of assigning more of the final module mark for group work, presentations, peer assessment, and even just making that hazy criterion of “seminar participation” actually mean something. We thought some kind of (in)formal meet-up outside of seminars, like reading groups, would be instrumental in making sure people got their preparation done so seminars would flow well and be useful. We had various ideas for some kind of online collaboration space based around seminars, for blogging, continuing discussions, collating good references or mind-mapping topics from week to week to help draw relations between different issues studied (although I hope it doesn’t end up on MOLE…)
Some of our ideas we acknowledged would require quite a change in culture for both staff and students. For this reason we thought it most feasible to bring in some of these new concepts for first years and have them permeate the department gradually (plus first year is non-assessed so people who don’t like group work or giving presentations would have time to develop the necessary new skills). Informal dissertation presentations were suggested as a way to encourage interaction between second years and final years. Second years get a much-needed impression of the requirements and possibilities of a dissertation, and final years would get another chance to practice presenting their ideas, and the benefit of another set of minds challenging them. I think there’s scope for more of this kind of inter-year exchange, which can really enhance the community of a department.
I was really excited by the discussion we had, and I’m thinking about how these ideas could be transferred over to other departments. Next week we’ll be putting them to staff, and hopefully ironing out details of their implementation