Thursday, July 7, 2011


The category I like least on our student evaluations is "Relevance and usefulness of course content." How do you know what's really relevant and useful until years later? More of my students realize the value of the class after a couple of years have passed but not as much during the semester. I would like to change that perception in order to increase their (and my) satisfaction.

Most students in general education literature courses aren't pursuing an English major. They may never read another work of literature again. So it's a given that the course will not directly contribute to their major. What then is the relevance and use of the course?

For future majors, it would be relevant to have an idea about literary movements and to become familiar with specialized vocabulary and forms of literary analysis. This does need to be a part of the class, but it is relatively minor.

For all students:
  • it's useful to improve their reading and writing skills. Even technical majors need to be able to communicate verbally. Reading closely improves the ability to pay attention to detail (sensing skills) and makes students more aware of the nuances of language (intuitive skills).
  • it's useful to improve their critical thinking skills. What are the implications of the behavior of characters in various situations? What sort of logic do characters and speakers use? How can you identify the subtext and assumptions?
  • it's probably most relevant to gain insight into the human experience. What does it feel like to grow up, to grow old, to be an outsider, to be an insider, to be in love, to mourn, to struggle, to sacrifice? What would we do in similar situations? This is what I feel should be the major thrust of any gen-ed literature course.
I'm thinking about this because I'm in the process of redesigning my British literature survey. While I've always valued the connections readers make, I haven't explicitly encouraged the goal of learning more about human experience. In my revision, I'm going to tie this goal to my student learning outcomes.

No comments:

Post a Comment