MACS 320 – Fall 2015 and Fall 2017
Drawing on media studies, cultural studies, and critical theory, this upper-level course of 35-45 students sought to give students tools which to better understand the media and culture they consume every day. The course centers on foundational critical theory and cultural studies texts, including critiques, updates and popular applications of theory. Because the department requires no pre-reqs to sign up, my biggest challenge in designing and teaching the course is making sure I’m adequately serving the needs of students within the College of Media who have taken introductory courses and students from across the university who have never taken a media studies or cultural theory course before. I do this by adequately warning students in the first week of what is expected of them, offering extra help and resources for those students who might need to do background reading on their own, and pairing more experienced students with those less familiar with the field together for in-class activities, discussion groups, and group presentations.
The first time I taught this course, I was originally designated as the teaching assistant, but had to take over as the instructor at the last minute. Thus, the course was supposed to have discussion sections in addition to meeting twice a week. Instead, I had to cut discussion sections and fit all of our material into two class meetings a week to make the course manageable and redesign the syllabus two weeks before classes started.
This semester, I’m pleased to have had more time to design the syllabus and to have the course meet three times a week. I’m also integrating more student buy-in throughout the course, creating “working groups” during the first week of the class tasked with researching, discussing, and offering recommendations on different sets of classroom policies including media use in class, reading checks, and group work. I’ve also redesigned the final paper to scaffold more chances for written feedback, editing, peer review and revision throughout the semester. Instead of requiring 4-5 short writing assignments throughout the semester as I usually do, students will instead research and write drafts of 4-5 sections of their final paper throughout the semester and be tasked with heavily revising and combining them as their final project.
Student Evaluations: Fall 2015 – 4.3 / 4.4
As my evaluations tend to improve each time I teach a course, I am hoping to raise these scores this semester after a course redesign and after taking teaching workshops on leading discussion, informal early feedback, and designing writing assignments.
Sample Student Comments:
“Hands down the best course I’ve take in four years of college.”
“Passionate, interesting, approachable, and made the course fun and exciting!”