This course portfolio details how revising a creative project assignment to incorporate a new learning goal—explain how a Shakespeare text relates to today’s world—helped students develop critical thinking skills and discover ways that early modern English literature illuminates their own lives.
ENGL 3000-100 Shakespeare for Nonmajors is a large-lecture course designed to satisfy the College of Arts and Science’s requirement for upper-division literature and the arts. I’ve been teaching this course each spring since 2014, and each year I’ve added or adjusted elements of the course. The Background page of this portfolio outlines how my course design has evolved to introduce students to the material culture that influenced Shaksepeare's writing, as well as to the texts and art works that Shakespeare's works have inspired. Students build upon this information to create their own Shakespeare-inspired projects.
For the 2017 spring semester, I revised the Creative Project Assignment to task students with identifying themes or issues in Shakespeare’s texts that help elucidate interests or concerns in the world today. The Implementation section of this portfolio explains these revisions and the pedagogical theory on critical thinking that informs my redesign.
Students in the 2017 spring semester of ENGL 3000-100 took up the challenge to illustrate Shakespeare’s relevance in the twenty-first century and created powerful testaments to why we continue to study his works. The Student Work page of this portfolio includes examples of students’ creative projects and descriptions, along with their reflections on their learning experience. I’ve also included a summary and samples of students’ responses to an end-of-semester survey question that asks students to describe what they learned from the course.
I’m very pleased with the students’ performance on the creative projects. Revising the project assignment goals to address how Shakespeare relates to today’s world has prompted the students to think beyond the parameters of the texts in the course and discover ways that Shakespeare’s works illuminate their own lives and how they think about the world. On the Reflection page of this portfolio, I share my thoughts about this assignment revision and ways I plan to build upon this work in future semesters.