Summer Plans: Reflecting and Moving Forward

1 June 2021
By Kiley Kost

In early December 2020, the three faculty members in the Carleton German Program met online for a half-day retreat to review and revise our curriculum. Broadly, we hoped to reflect on the goals of our German program and how we can meet them in classes of all levels. It was in this retreat that we framed our critical approach to German Studies and worked on creating our mission statement that became one of the first posts in this blog.

It was also during this retreat when we acknowledged that many of our goals require sustained work and reflection. Meaningful change in inclusion, diversity, and equity is accompanied by a sense of urgency to act, yet the action required must itself be ongoing and long-term. Thus, we crafted our idea for a summer retreat to spend some uninterrupted time reflecting on feedback from students and retooling our courses to be more inclusive and accessible. This is planned for early June and we want to share some of the things we will be working on. The following glimpse into our plans will be the final blog post of the 2020-2021 academic year. We will return to our monthly posts in fall 2021 and will share updates from our work over the summer.

Goals related to the curriculum and program:

  • Develop our plans for building a coherent curriculum. Fill in more details regarding the scaffolding and spiraling of topics and skills across all levels of the curriculum. What will students learn when, what types of topics and texts will be emphasized at each level, what types of assessments and projects will students complete at each level, so that it all builds throughout their time at Carleton?
  • Streamline our course sequence and curriculum, and use our work on inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility on all course levels. In this context, define “us” in the German program: what are we offering our students, what are students taking with them when they leave Carleton?
  • Review student feedback from mid-term and end-of-term evaluations, especially the questions that ask students about their experience with inclusion, equity, and diversity in class and in course content. 
  • Think about rigor and pacing–what’s the right amount of work and individual daily tasks and events, so that it works for us and our students? What pacing, types of work, etc. can we implement so that students who are thrilled to learn lots of language can really take off, and so that students who find language learning more challenging also have a very positive experience?
  • Think about how we will use student workers (ongoing roles for research assistants, work on specific courses, etc.)
  • Reflect on the experience of teaching four terms completely online and what practices and policies should remain as we transition back into in-person learning. Some ideas about course structure include building in flexibility to the assignment structure (students might recognize these “oops tokens” from Flower Darby and James M. Lang’s book Small Teaching Online), using scaffolded projects in place of chapter exams, and retooling quizzes to be helpful resources for students to gauge their progress. Which of these practices could be implemented in all levels of the curriculum? 
  • Continue to learn more about the Carleton community and think about how we can best contribute to both the German program and the larger institution–and get ready to teach in person for the first time in a while in fall 2021!

Goals related to specific courses:

  • Juliane will revise her GERM 216 course about short prose and her GERM 221 course about literature and art in the Fin de Siècle that she will teach next academic year to include more voices from minority and minoritized voices. 
  • Kiley will revisit and revise her GERM 247 course on fairy tales and folklore to work on adding more content from beyond German and European contexts, drawing on the upcoming crossover issues of Die Unterrichtspraxis/The German Quarterly on “Fairy Tales and Folklore in a Global Context” and Adrienne Merritt‘s talk on “Rethinking the German Studies Curriculum and Beyond” from the DDGC conference in March. 
  • Seth will prepare to teach GERM 204 for the first time this fall; he will review notes and feedback from courses during his first year to identify strengths and areas for improvement, especially regarding inclusivity and student engagement.
  • All of us will revise our courses using more equitable grading practices and offering assignments that are scaffolded logically and sustainably so they will help improve students’ skills and knowledge.

Goals related to faculty:

  • We will keep cultivating a productive relationship with colleagues so our program can be strong and thriving. Such a program is only possible with a happy and healthy faculty!
  • We will think more about the three of us (as unique and talented individuals who are excited to work together!) as a program. How can we build each of our specific strengths into the curriculum and program administration? 
  • We will discuss our positionality as faculty: Where do we have blind spots, holes, needs? What are our plans to educate and train ourselves further, especially when it comes to the above-mentioned areas?
  • We will share with and learn from our colleagues and enjoy being in an intellectual learning community.

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