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First Year Seminar – Reflections after 1st IF Discussion

The discussion began today formally (though last week we had a trial run). Flip charts & markers were used for the first time.  Students were asked to identify the values addressed in the three essays assigned from the common reader (This I believe), select the one they preferred as “problem area” and start debating concerns about it, approaches & consequences.  Most groups seemed animated, but I noticed the following issues:

  1. Several groups stopped discussing because they had nothing else to say, they were done! This was particularly obvious in a group that only had three members (because 2 were absent). The observation made me wonder if  the groups should have been be larger (6 students). I keep groups small (5 students) for “control” purposes but they may be losing in terms of ideas/contents…
  2. The method was not being followed in many cases! The facilitators were not writing down everything; conversations were going on while the facilitators was writing;  the process of listening-following up was not followed up; some censoring was going on
  3. We left the class before I met with the facilitators! I totally forgot so there was not follow up with any group.  I sent them the peer evaluation form via email to complete. It would help to have a way to assess groups while they are conducting discussions. If I am move around, they look at me and stop as soon as I approach!
  4. I am concerned that they are not dealing with clear policy-related issues but values in general. When I suggested to some, “think about a specific setting” (to rekindle the discussion about approaches) they became very specific/concrete and simply wanted to outline solutions
  5. I have a “clownish” student that creates a bit of racket. Although I placed him with a serious group, I wonder if he will impact them adversely…
  6. I still have to figure out how to connect the reading assignments with the project topic and policy oriented agenda of IF…