Monday, May 19, 2014

Professor for one year (week 45): Last week of teaching

Finally it's mid February and the last week of teaching is over.  This semester (Winter term 2013/2014), I taught four courses: on Computational Morphology aka XFST, on Computational Semantics aka Prolog, on Natural Language Processing, and on logging writing processes and exploring those data.

Except for the NLP course, I had to prepare everything from scratch.  There was material I could use and it definitely helped to "borrow" ideas and exercises for the two programming courses, but I spent all time with preparing slides (for all courses) and data (especially for the writing processes course) or assessing student solutions.

I also realized that I have to work on my elocution: When I teach two classes back-to-back, my voice is almost gone at the end of the day although I regularly sip some water.  Of course, one solution would be not to talk that much myself, but to let students contribute more.  However, staying focused for 90 minutes and trying to be louder than the 30 computers plus keyboarding noise and to keep students awake is stress to my voice.

As for the exams, I did different things:
  • For the Prolog course, I had an exam similar to the Perl course last semester.  The grade is made up by points earned during the semester by submitting solutions for three exercises and then there is a final exam consisting of a more theoretical part to be answered on paper and a more practical part where students actually program.  I could assess the theoretical part while students worked on the programming tasks, nice multitasking.
  • For the XFST course, students earned some points by solving three assignments during the semester, too.  And then they will submit small projects including documentation within 4 weeks.
  • For the NLP course, students earned some points during the semester by submitting solutions for three assignments and then I had a classic written exam at the very last session.  Students had to answer one question per topic.  Looks like the handwriting of most students is more or less readable.
  • For the writing process course, students had to work on a project during the second half of the semester.  They defined a small research question to investigate in groups of two, recorded a writing session for each person, and then explored the logged data and wrote a small report.  I will report on this experimental didactic setting at the next Conference on Writing Research in August. 
I could time the assessments for the three NLP-related courses so I had to come up with an assignment every week and I had to grade an assignment every week.  I preferred a constant but moderate workload instead of giving assignments to all three courses in the same week.  In every course, students had to read research papers (classics and recent ones) in groups and present the content to their colleagues.  Students also had to relate the paper they presented to the material presented or discussed before and they had to comment on whether or not they agree with the authors based on their prior knowledge and being almost full-fledged and approved linguists themselves (they where all master students except for the XFST course).

So teaching is over, I wait for the project submissions of two courses and I have to assess the written exam for NLP and the Prolog programs.  I hope to submit all grades by the end of March to actually finish all teaching stuff when my appointment in Konstanz ends.

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