Saturday, June 21, 2008

Student Extends Kind Remarks...

Maybe One of These?
Somssi: "Especially For You"
(Image from Wikipedia)

Some semesters, a class works out well. This past semester at Yonsei University's Underwood International College, I tried a new approach. For the first half of the semester, the students in my class on Islamism read assigned articles on the topic, the goal being to ground ourselves in a solid understanding of what Islamism actually is. Our shorthand formulation came to be worded as follows:
"Islamism = the political use of Islam aiming at a sharia-based state."
This "political use" might or might not involve the use of violence . . . though I think that at some point, force would be necessary if the Islamists were to gain power and seek to impose sharia upon those unwilling to submit. Anyway, that was the focus of our semester's first half . . . though, of course, our fuller characterization of "Islamism" was rather more complex and qualified, and differed somewhat according to each student.

In the semester's second half, students followed up their own interests to write a research essay on some issue related to Islamism. This latter process began with a thesis statement -- handed in by students during the midterm week -- expressing each student's argument about some aspect of Islamism in a single, logically formulated sentence.

During those latter weeks, students reported weekly on their findings as they researched and wrote their papers, handing in their first, drafts a couple of weeks ago. Most of the students responded well to this approach and did penultimate a lot more research than in a more micromanaged course because they grew intensely interested in their chosen topics.

Yesterday, I collected their ultimate efforts as they handed in the final drafts of their research essays, complete with citations and bibliography. One student also offered me a nice card in which she had written:
Dear Professor Hodges,

Thank you for such a wonderful course on Islamism this semester. You made learning so much fun & amazingly interesting for us. I am now fully interested in the subject of both Islam and Islamism!

Thank you!

Sumi Park
This was gratifying to read, and I think that she did, indeed, speak for much of the class, for all of the students appeared happy with the course as they handed in their final drafts despite knowing that I will be grading their papers very strictly (for I've already done a preliminary reading and grading of their first drafts).

Anyway, this semester's approach went so well that I intend to pursue the same approach next semester when I teach a couple of other topical courses: "Multiculturalism in Europe" and "The 'Trial' of Theoretical Curiosity."

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At 1:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yours is as good an example as any of the benefits of a heuristic approach to pedagogy.

At 4:41 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I've arrived at this method by trial-and-error.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:44 PM, Blogger gordsellar said...

I think I'm going to try this approach in my "Multicultural Society and Literature" course, in which we'll likely cover Canadian Literature since (a) that's where I have a lot of background, and (b) it's variety, since many other course offerings deal with "American society," "American literature," and "multiculturalism in America."

Plus there's lots of neat CanLit I can actually throw at them in the first half to get them thinking

At 2:54 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Gord, that sounds good. Good luck with it.

Your blog entry of last February got me to thinking along these lines...

Jeffery Hodges

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