The Classroom Unconference

Open Space Session Scheduling, Wikipedia, ‘Unconference’

I teach HIST2809A, The Historian’s Craft. Each week we have 2 hours of lecture and 1 hour of tutorial with a TA. This term, I have 102 students in the class. Over 12 weeks, I try to instill a measure of reflexivity in my students, in their approach to primary documents. In my assignments, I have them transcribe primary documents, analyze visual evidence (photos, paintings, etc) and even some material culture. As a final assignment, I do a variation of the Forgery Game and we try to approach the same problems from 180 degrees the other direction.

At the midway point, I like to stop and ask for feedback on my teaching, and the course. I hand out 3×5 index cards, and have students write on one side the things that are working for them, and on the other, the things that’d be even better if…

That exercise takes about 20 minutes. What do I do with the other 100 minutes? Given the theme of reflexivity and community, I think an unconference is appropriate. Watch for #hist2809 on your twitter stream tomorrow. So here’s what I’m going to do.

8.35- 8.55 – mid-term feedback on my teaching.

8.55-9.15 – unconference explanation & scheduling. They already know what an unconference is, as I’m hosting THATCamp Accessibility on Saturday. Some of them are even coming! I’ll ask for suggestions, and put them up on the board. I’ll direct them to think about the things we’ve already covered.

9.15-9.20- voting. Simple show of hands. We’ll have four breakout areas, in the different corners of the room, in 15-20 minute ish sessions.

9.25-9.45. Session 1.

9.45-10.10. Session 2.

10.10-10.25. My concluding remarks. Class over.

I’ll encourage students to tweet while this is all going on. A handful are already on twitter; I’ll have a live stream displaying on the classroom projector. Maybe some of you will buzz in with comments on how you approach The Historian’s Craft. #hist2809, October 26th, 9 til 10 ish.

See you there!


One reply to “The Classroom Unconference

  1. honestly, I don’t see why this wouldn’t be a good approach to every class, all the time. Small breakout groups to discuss topics relating to the course that the students select? Sounds like solid student-centered teaching to me.

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