Nuria Silleras-Fernandez

Spanish and Portuguese

I worked on SPAN 4150 Masterpieces of Spanish Literature to 1700. This upper division class, taught in Spanish, is an introduction to Medieval and Early Modern poetry, prose and drama. Twenty-six students completed the course. The class met three times a week for fifty minutes.

What did I do?

In this class we read texts and studied topics that in many ways are removed from our time period and the daily experience of the students. One of the challenges of the course is that we read texts written in Old Spanish, which made comprehension more difficult for the students.
The objectives of the course were to improve students’ knowledge and understanding of medieval and Golden Age literature, and to develop their skills of critical reading and thinking, literary analysis, research and speaking and writing in Spanish. The course was highly practical and the students had to come to every session having completed their readings, and prepared to participate in discussion. They also wrote two mid-term exams, a final exam, six short responses to the readings (1 to 2 pages), a research proposal, and a final research paper (8 to 10 pages).

This semester I implemented some of the techniques and ideas that we discussed during our seminar.
- Classroom Assessment:
On the first day of class I gave them a questionnaire in order to gauge students’ preconceptions of the field, their knowledge, their ability to read and write, and their expectations for the course.

- Threshold concepts: During the first two weeks of the course we went over a few threshold concepts related to literary analysis as a class. I also introduced new ones as necessary.
- Visual companion to the readings: I streamed movies of two of the most important novels analyzed in the course so they could watch at home, and discuss the differences among them and how to interpret them in class.

- Engaging the Resources of Norlin Library: A librarian came to my class to orient students regarding the sources that they needed for writing their research paper. It was a hands-on session; the students were asked to bring their notebooks to class. I also visited Special Collections with my class and my students were able to see and examine manuscripts, incunabula and early printed books. This visit was very helpful because as a result the students understood book production in a more sophisticated way, they came to understand the importance of paratextual elements, and they got a chance to look at some of the early editions of some text that we were reading in class. They also seemed to enjoy the visit a lot.

- Desire to Learn (D2L): I used D2L for the first time (before I used CULearn). I created a portfolio with power point slides, readings (mandatory and optional); I opened a discussion page and a page to post announcements.
- Clarifying Goals: I made my goals more explicit to the students, gave them lots of feedback and helped them to recognize quality work.

- Classroom Learning Interview Process (CLIP): I requested this service from FTEP and I was very pleased with the result. I learned a lot from the answers that my students gave to the interviewer regarding my teaching. In general they were very satisfied, but they gave me a few very useful suggestions. For example, they told me that before we started reading a new text, they needed to have a general summary so that they would know what to expect and to gain a better grasp of the main ideas and vocabulary. They also thought that working in groups was not always a very good idea because there were concepts and ideas that were difficult to grasp to some and it was just better for me to treat them in class and discuss them in a general forum.

What difference did it make?
All of the approaches mentioned above worked well and made a difference in the class. But what ended up being most important was to use the information gathered by CLIP to make adjustments in my teaching style. Just knowing what students wanted and how they saw the course was very helpful.

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