Fair Warning: This is less of a full-fledged post and more of an attempt to make sense of an event through an anecdote about teaching.
Two months ago I taught a session for an Archaeology Practicum class beginning their research to analyze a 19th century collection of household items from Baltimore. My initial reaction was a mild panic attack at having to figure out what archaeologists need to help them analyze a collection, but after a decent email exchange with the course instructor I was able to figure out which resources the students would need to access and learn how to use.
I ended up focusing the class primarily on good search strategies instead of the ins and outs of various databases and catalogs (although I did use a catalog and database to illustrate these search strategies). I tried to do this with a jigsaw activity, having students work in pairs to try out different search strings using various Boolean operators, symbols, and words from a brief keyword brainstorming session. Like all jigsaw activities I try the hands-on piece was excellent. The students were into it and trying out new searches. Then came the sharing part, which included a lots of questions from me and a hefty dose of explanation on why their results turned out the way they did. There’s wasn’t a ton of interaction with the students during this portion of the class, which was kind of a bummer, and I thought I had lost them.
Then we had a break, and the students were free to do some research on their own. During this break, a student in the class who I thought wasn’t paying much attention came up to me to say “That was so so so helpful. I had no idea how to do some of that stuff. Thank you so much.”
Sometimes it’s just so tough for me to tell whether or not students are getting anything out of the classes I teach. It’s nice to know that I can reach at least a student or two some of the time, but I have been thinking about doing more in-class assessment to try to get a better sense of what students are retaining. What types of in-class assessment do you find most successful? Minute papers? 3-2-1? Worksheets and assignments?