Monday, August 26, 2013

Teaching grammar

I've never taught grammar before, but now it's definitely high time to brush up on the linguistic. I'm about to teach two grammar courses beginning in the next few weeks. Today I've written one of the schedules/seminar plans and I will continue to work on the second one tomorrow. There are similarities as well as differences between the two courses, but I think it will be really good for me to iron out the wrinkles and start thinking in those terms again. To be honest, I'm very much looking forward to it.

Friday, August 02, 2013

A New Job

Yesterday it became official. With somewhat mixed feelings I will leave my temporary position at Karlstad University (KAU) on Aug 14th for a permanent position as senior lecturer at the Department of Human Sciences/English at Högskolan i Kristianstad/Kristianstad University College (HKR). Luckily, I have finished planning the courses I was supposed to teach and I will hand them over to my successor as soon as possible. Today, I've received a list of the courses that I will teach at HKR and I'm eager to get my teeth into the planning.

To be honest, I'm sad to leave all my wonderful colleagues at KAU, but I'm at the same time thrilled to meet all my new colleagues at HKR and learn more about the work they are doing as well as the context of that which I will be doing this upcoming autumn.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Writing analyses

Some hints I give to my students on how to structure a literary/text analysis, be it for a oral presentation or a written essay:

1. Focus on one specific issue (theme/gender/narrative style/characters/symbols etc) and state this issue when beginning to write or talk about it.

2. Gather evidence in the form of quotations (or in the picture book case possibly also illustrations) regarding that specific issue and use that to help argue your case or show that what you've decided to look at makes sense.

3. Draw parallels to an ideology or a theoretical framework, which will provide you with a link between the specific and the general and help you establish the relevance of your work/viewpoint.

4. Sum up your argument in a coherent conclusion, that shows the results you have come up with with clear ties to your initial question/issue/focus. Tie up your argument/idea.

This is a fairly basic formula for academic analysis and I don't think it's that complicated. In general I advise my students to be brave, take a stand of some kind and make sure that their choice of evidence reflects that. Then they will have to show why this is relevant on a more general level before they sum up their analysis. I usually end by asking them to pleeeeease say something interesting!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Attendance and Analysis

Attendance is dropping in general at the universities. Do students consider lectures and seminars unnecessary? I've just finished a campus course with 31 students. At the introduction there were 27 students present. At the first seminar 13 students present, the second time the number had dropped to approximately eight, until the sixth time when there were suddenly only four people showing up. I have learned that this is a pattern with this class, however. Currently in their fourth term, this has been a pattern in the previous terms as well, when they were studying other subjects. At the oral exam, a few days ago, suddenly 28 of them showed up, with the result that more than half of them failed the exam. I might add that the vast majority of the students are in the early twenties.

The problem for me on this course, which has a focus on language teaching and analysis, is that the majority of the students are very unaccustomed to drawing conclusions and analyse properly, an increasing problem as the students who seemingly would benefit the most from the teaching fail to show up. We have often taken the ability to analyse for granted on the university level, but this is clearly not as self-evident anymore. As the reactions to the results began to drop in, I realised I had to smooth some ruffled feathers and I posted the following:

"Since there are quite a few of you who have been to the seminars only occasionally or not at all and may not have handed in keywords and received comments, here are a few pointers on what an analysis entails and its relevance:

An analysis is not a summary, a description, or a review. In an analysis you are not supposed to talk about what you "liked," "hated," or "loved." The focus is on what it actually said in the text, its implications, and coherent and relevant arguments. On this course you were supposed to use the literary text(s) as a first step to compare and contrast, draw parallels between various examples/interesting aspects in the texts and anything that might be relevant either in theory, in the context when the book was written or in the world today. This is only the first step towards analytical thinking, however. To analyse is to see patterns in the world in general and to draw parallels between that and the concrete examples; to see the world in a grain of sand, if you wish.

In your future role as teachers, to be able to properly analyse something is essential in order to be able to make informed decisions and argue for them in a coherent and analytical manner, be it about literature, about course or lesson plans, about the development of the pupils, or about something entirely different. Summarising, describing or reviewing is rarely enough. Developing your analytical skills might take some time and is usually better achieved in groups, as was supposed to be the case on this course, than by yourself, since the awareness of alternative/differing points of view tend to speed up the analytical process, but it is of course possible to become more aware of the analytical processes on your own as well if you're aware of your goal."

I'm not sure how this will be received, but it felt useful simply to outline to myself my reasons for thinking that both attendance and analysis are important.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

New Title

When I began working as a University Lecturer, at the Department of Languages/English at Karlstad University again in July this year, they were unable to automatically appoint me to Senior Lecturer since my Ph.D. was in an entirely different field, TechnoScience. In August, however, I applied for an evaluation and this evaluation has now been completed. The result is that I can now call myself Senior Lecturer in English.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Early December

One literature course for English teachers, Language Learning in Theory and Practice, has just ended and I finished grading it two days ago. It has been a really fun course with some very good students and I wish them all the best in their future work as teachers. Currently, I'm teaching three more literature courses, two that will finish in January and a third in April, and there are some really good people on these courses too. Teaching is definitely fun and I've been very lucky in this regard.

The planning for next term is also under way and I plan to teach three — hopefully four — more courses of the same type at Karlstad University this upcoming Spring.

Today, I'm preparing for next week's seminars. The first one will focus on Helen Oyeyemi's The Icarus Girl and the movie The Lion King. At the second seminar we will discuss The Great Gatsby, and at the third the focus will be on Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" and Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto. Quite a leap between them.