*Cackles Maniacally*

Guess who just inherited a lecture on the Chanson de Roland? *Cackles maniacally some more*

For tomorrow, granted. But happily for me, I can talk about Roland until I turn blue in the face, despite having done very little work on him since, oh, second year. My boss and I have a rather predictable pattern going by now. It works like this:

1. Boss is sick for some reason.
2. Amy inherits lecture.
3. Amy cackles maniacally, takes opportunity to lecture a captive audience on the construction of masculinity. And, y’know, other relevant things. But with more genderwank and Discourse Jar terms than they would otherwise get.

Charles finds Roland dead - 14th century image

Roland dying heroically; Charles performing very masculine rituals of hysterical greif

Good things: when this happened last semester, I scripted my first lecture from woah to go, including the Star Trek jokes; the second time around I lectured straight off the PowerPoints, and, aside from breaking out in a sudden unplanned rash of Sassurian sign theory, that worked fine. So planning the next three weeks – one surprise lecture and two I was supposed to do anyway – is not nearly as daunting as it might be.

Things I’m trying to model in my lectures:

– Clear structure
– Close reading skills
– How to draw on critical sources and relate them to evidence from said close reading
– How to be quite ridiculous and still know your stuff

I’m pretty sure I do all of these reasonably well, but I’m thinking this time I need to flag up that these are my intentions: that I don’t just want to stuff information into their brains, but to give them working examples of certain academic practices. It took me a long time to start critically thinking about the lectures I attended as an undergrad; but once I did, that was one of the best forms of academic training I received. (I still attend undergrad lectures for precisely this purpose.)

I did make a point of brainstorming tutorial presentation skills with my tute group last week, and when I did so, I asked them about what made good lectures and how they could apply the same principles to their presentations.

I could give my class all copies of the tutorial marksheet and ask them to ‘mark’ my lectures? Not this week, because I won’t see them before the lecture, but perhaps next week or the week after. I wouldn’t come up very well on things like argument (I try not to lecture on a single argument; they can get single arguments from journal articles), but it might be an interesting exercise for the students. Or perhaps I will simply allocate ten minutes to talking about what they like/don’t like about my lectures. Good for me, good for them. Potentially terrible for my ego, though.

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5 Responses to “*Cackles Maniacally*”

  1. Annelise Says:

    Hooray for inherited lectures! Enjoy the captive audience 🙂

    I’m curious about the dynamics of getting your class to discuss strengths and weaknesses in your lectures. I love your philosophy of modelling and flagging to demystify your skill set, linking great content consistently with its best forms of delivery… And showing the constant process of improvement at any level of scholarship. This activity would be memorable, for sure!

    Numerical marking has to be practised for a while before it becomes meaningful for most people, even though filling out a marksheet would definitely increase awareness of the whole marking process. If I were giving this task I’d only ask for comment feedback (guided by the criteria fields), which is easier to give but usually the most valuable.

    It might also be good to set an expected limit on responses. That way there’s no perceived risk of students giving too much negative feedback- making nonconstructive comments, affecting the level of respect that you need to teach well, or not feeling comfortable engaging with the task. Likewise, making positive feedback constructive and giving clear definition to this task within the rest of the tutorial. I would ask for the two best parts of the lecture, and also the two that most need improvement. These could be collected back- and then you could brainstorm generally about a few of these problems can be addressed, or good aspects achieved, in student essays and presentations. As many as you have time for around (or within) the class’ actual content.

    Would love to hear how this goes, if you do it!

    • highlyeccentric Says:

      What I’m thinking, as of this evening, is that I’ll put up the ticky-box mark sheet on the board and talk through it, and encourage them to think about things like which factors I prioritised, and whether or not that worked. I might prime a couple of my students from last semester and tell them they have to come up with one or two weak points, or some such.

  2. Annelise Says:

    I like the idea of talking about which criteria were prioritised and how effective they were. Nice and simple!

    This sounds like a helpful task for both you and the students, which is a great relational approach to teaching; more like mentoring, welcoming students into your own learning process.

    Really great teaching always seems to contain a high element of modelling, especially when you’re leading the class to discuss texts/content by asking a lot of excellent questions. It love how teacher talk that facilitates good discussions on the spot naturally involves the same thought-paths and questions that students will use when working through texts on our own- or in this case, reflecting on our own work.

  3. Other things done in lectures, or, Highly should not be allowed to improvise « The Naked Philologist Says:

    […] topic of my last couple of teaching posts, I feel something sillier is in order. When I gave the Roland lecture the other week, I didn’t end up doing a spiel about presentation methodology at the […]


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