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Getting there


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Got home late, spent almost an hour talking to a student after class, about issues related to the course...first of all centering on aggressivity but then the underlying aspects came to the fore, problems of not knowing how to pronounce vocabulary and not feeling fluent to participate in discussions or produce work, worrying that fluent returnee students have an unfair advantage, and pretty much being overloaded with a backlog of other courses too, so finding it hard to make time to meet up outside of class time.
I passed on the website where you can enter words and click for pronunciation (too late to train phonetic script and I dislike it myself... :P) , suggested that the image of an unfair advantage was perhaps a misconception, since Economic terminology in Japanese is difficult too, and therefore equally difficult in English: it has to be studied and learned, irrespective of colloquial fluency.
As for the onstage presence, and presentation fluency, it is not born of living abroad, it can be trained: basically if you repeat and work on your part of the presentation about five times, you get fluent, and can introduce emphasis and modulation, a question of practice...Finally suggested providing work in advance, like vocabulary for the handout, or a summary of the article, in return for not meeting up with teh group at other times.
We got told off by the lecturer of the next class for being too noisy talking in the corridor, so we kind of wandered off, and I think we came to more of an understanding, but I am feeling pretty drained, deflecting the aggression to get at the underlying feelings, although I think I did a better job...pretty hard to begin with, like, I represent the class in my expression of dissatisfaction here, how long have you been teaching at Sophia anyway, are you aligning your course with other Economics lecturers and how often do you meet with them, where are the Sophia standards for me to check that your class is not too demanding....whew! a veritable barrage of artillery...no wonder i'm exhausted...

The vocabulary check went well, and I had the schedule and the articles to choose from up on the board, then launched into presenting the technique of how to read an article and brainstorm economic concepts, and then summarize using those terms, (see Thursday Nov.25th for details)
and we took a break after one of the students had asked for a quick recap and how to link it to a presentation.

During the break I double checked with a student near the front whether he understood and found it useful, and then moved my huge pile of papers to a nearby desk to make way for the two presentations left over from the previous class. The first group had a great set up, really well thought out structure and presenting different aspects of their topic, Third World Debt, only the visuals....no large graphs, numbers just spouted out, not written on cards or anything, the handout great when you read it later, but hard to follow in the presentation, with the graph titles too tiny...and the second lot had great use of voice, emphasis, engaging presence, a wonderful handout and great survey, only they forgot to link their content (the price of beer and sparkling alcohol, Taste or Price, as they alluringly titled it) to the issue of Pricing Strategies (their intial worksheet) and to make any suggestions for reasons for consumer trends in Japan, the downswing in the business cycle and psychological factors, perhaps, or for how the tax is being used by the government, or issues of government regulation, taxes and market distortions...it seems to me that they need more modelling of how to think and make connections to the field of Economics, to think laterally, and I can't control and check and help out so many different groups... and unlike Thursday students, they swan off to the computer room and think they have done a great job, without having really understood....hmmmm...I have not created enough time in this course for feedback on content and weaknesses in content and structure, hoping they would learn from peers. This did not matter for the first presentation, because they were basicallly presenting a definition already there for them from the worksheet, but when it comes to doing a worksheet, focusing on one particular issue, making a survey and really drawing meaningful conclusions....ho hum, ho hum...and when the content is there, the presentation skills are not, so that the rest of the class did not listen and therefore understand or learn from the better thinking paradigm....

Not quite sure what to glean from all this, but students today are already heavy into the article and the new groups...so let it go for the time being, give myself time understand what's happening and to get creative with a solution.

Remembered to pass round the consent paper asking for permission to use work in research and publishing, and promising anonymity, occasionally explaining here and there inbetweentimes what it was about and what it meant...got to remember to ask people to sign on Thursday too.