I am generally pleased with the overall effect of Spanish 314 this term. The course was ambitious in format in that it requested of the students extensive reading of dense Spanish novels from the 19th and 20th centuries, viewing of three films, an oral presentation on a separate (but related) topic, two papers, a midterm, and a final web portfolio and paper.
The variety of materials and assignments helped the flow of the course and helped the students to come to understand the development of the Spanish novel and the concomitant social forces over more than a century of Spanish literary history. Students came to appreciate the novel as literary genre, political tool, cultural product, societal reflection, and market force. By reading, examining, researching, and writing copiously about an independent fourth novel from the post-Franco era, students applied the knowledge gained throughout the semester to a novel of their own choosing. Many were interested to find in the post-Franco novel currents similar to the realist novel of the 19th century. Many were surprised to be able to begin to define a cultural period contemporary to their own lives. Most were interested to learn about others' independently chosen novels and to compare their characteristics to that of their own novels. Some surprised themselves with their interest in the novel and ability to write and speak about it.
I consider the extensive web portfolio to be a success. Students carried out their work on the independent novel in a step-by-step portfolio process ultimately published on the web. At each step, students had to evaluate and submit comments on the work of one of their peers. Only one of the students had ever before created a webpage. Therefore, we had to spend much time on the technological aspects. This was at times was frustrating, both due to technical difficulties (e.g. switching between applications [FrontPage and Netscape Composer]) and to the need to speak English in the attempt to clear up technological problems.
The content of the portfolios is not perfect. Students checked carefully for content errors and did numerous revisions to correct grammar. Nevertheless, the portfolios still reflect some of the grammar errors typical to students of this level.
The downfall of the course is the excessive amount of work assigned. Students already struggle with the direct task of reading bulky novels in Spanish. I added to that many other requirements that at times certainly overwhelmed the students. In the future, I will find a way to incorporate film into the class without having it become an extra task and body of knowledge for the students. In addition, I will eliminate the web forum, whose usefulness was limited due to the small class size (9 students).
All in all, the portfolio process was a fruitful one for students as individuals, as peer reviewers, and as community class members. I learned a lot about two novels that students read for their projects. One of them I had read once a decade ago, and the other I had never read before this semester. Therefore, the portfolio projects also provided an opportunity for me to expand my knowledge of the canon of post-Franco novels.
[top of page ] [ 314
homepage ] [Mayock homepage
Student evaluations reveal that they appreciated and learned from the course content but were generally frustrated by the course load and the technology requirements. I believe that, had I administered the survey after students had completed and presented on their web portfolios, they might have responded more positively to the questions about the technical/technological aspects of the course.
Strengths of course:
[top of page ] [ 314 homepage ] [Mayock homepage ]
The Flashlight survey was quite helpful in eliciting responses to questions very much tailored to this course (and its Mellon/technology thrust).
In the future, I intend to maintain the flow of content. I might consider reading all of Niebla because students tend to enjoy thoroughly the fragments we read and to be intrigued by how Unamuno fits into the trajectory of the Spanish novel and of world literature in general. If I make this change, I will eliminate one of the other novels and figure how best to work the schedule of the independent novel.
Although I insist that viewing films is a valuable exercise for students who are studying the "narrativity" of the 20th century, I must work on ways of making the films a less onerous part of the course and a more pedagogically valuable one. We may best be served by viewing digitized fragments of appropriate films and discussing the fragments as they relate to the novel being considered at the time.
If I keep asking students to complete web portfolios, I will have to
figure out how to keep the work load reasonable while still reading sufficient
Spanish novels for students to understand the development of the genre
in Spain. This is and will a remain a challenge because it is part
of the professor's typical desire to give students more because "more is
[top of page ] [ 314
homepage ] [Mayock homepage