I tried some more collaborative assignments this week in the Roman art class. I also had an interesting exchange this week with Bob Trader in the Communication department. From some of the articles he sent to me, I found out that I am assinging “team-based learning” projects in the class. Some of these articles talked about “problem-based learning,” a concept I did not realize had a name, etc. Interesting things to think about.
Specifically, this week I had created the following “team-based learning project” for in-class: I made up a fake “competition” between the cities of Ostia and Pompeii for the “Best City in Rome” to be awarded by “judges” from the Senate. Before class, students had read chapters about the art and architecture of Ostia and Pompeii and some chapters about these cities more generally. The class was divided pretty evenly (about 10 in each “city”) into Pompeiians and Ostians [by the way I always pre-sort the teams or groups as I am trying to be sure all students work with each other and get to know each other, in order to create a real community in the classroom]. Each “team” had to make a presentation to the “judges” from the Senate: MAJOR thanks to Steve Kerby and Chris Mathews for filling in as judges on very short notice!
The students had four categories that they had to consider: overall economic impact, art and culture, city planning, and general benefit to the Republic/Empire. Ostia won, but both groups did a very good job and slapped PowerPoint presentations together in record speed! They had 30 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to make their “pitch” to the judges. I was impressed at how well they snythesized the reading and chose their respective city’s best features. They really did figure out the best way to pitch each city based on the criteria set by the “Senate.”
At different times this week, I spoke to students about the class and what they thought of it. They both happened to be first-year students. Both said they were enjoying the application of what they read to assignments in class. Each of them said they expected a straight lecture class, but that this class was making them read and “do stuff.” Both students said they didn’t mind reading because they knew that we’d do something with it – that they knew they would be held accountable.
I’m going to continue to hold them accountable and see how it goes for the rest of the semester. I’m impressed with this group so far.