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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: May ::
Re: Results of the Experiment
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1323  Tuesday, 14 May 2002

From:           Marcia Eppich-Harris <
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Date:           Tue, 14 May 2002 10:32:59 -0500
Subject: 13.1297 Re: Results of the Experiment
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1297 Re: Results of the Experiment

Kelli Marshall writes:

> In my experience of teaching Shakespeare to undergraduates I have found
> the exact opposite to be true: practically everyone is capable of
> understanding Shakespeare, and once the students realize that the
> material is really not that foreign, they seem quite interested in it.
> Nonetheless, would you mind sharing HOW you approached HAMLET and
> MACBETH with your freshmen students?

The environment for this experiment was a basic (and I do mean BASIC)
research writing class. What we did was spent about a week and a half on
each play respectively and had a test on each individually. I really
felt like this was not enough time to spend on each play, but at the
same time, I had other requirements that I had to meet for the class, so
I was essentially squeezing them in. One thing that was really hard was
trying to initiate more discussion. I dislike lecturing for an hour
without any imput from the class, but as much as I tried to get the
students to talk, they were very quiet. There were only a couple of
students in each class who would speak out, and after a while, they were
a little embarrassed about talking too much. I tried to get others to
speak and tried to encourage the ones who were making stabs at
conversation, but eventually, it ended up being me doing all the
talking. That was something I didn't like.

Anyway, after we read and "discussed" the plays, the students were to
pick a topic that was either directly or indirectly related to the
plays. I came up with about fifty topics on my own and let them either
pick from my list or pick their own topics. From that point on, they
were researching for the rest of the semester. So out of a sixteen week
semester, we spent about three and a half weeks on the plays, and the
rest of the time researching, talking about citation, learning MLA
style, etc., etc., etc. But the plays were always in the background, and
basically every example I used was relevant to the plays and their
research.

I'm not saying that all of my students were incapable of understanding
or disinterested. Quite a few of them surprised me and were wonderful
throughout the class. But there were about ten out of the whole group
who did nothing but complain and said things like, "we did Shakespeare
in high school, so we shouldn't HAVE to do it in college," or "I hate
Shakespeare," or "I've never read Shakespeare, and I'm not going to
start now." Bad attitudes abounded. I really did try very hard to stay
positive about it, but after a while, my own positive attitude became
just talk. So I will admit that part of the failures were on my own
behalf. But I did have some students who absolutely, under no uncertain
terms, refused to give Shakespeare a chance. Many of them just dropped
the class, and some of them tried to stick it out. The ones who tried to
stick it out ended up plagiarizing and failing anyway. (I suspect they
thought that if they played along then they would just find a research
paper online and turn it in at the end. That's mostly what happened.)

Anyway, I am very glad that Kelli's experience of teaching Shakespeare
to undergrads has been different. I think if I were teaching English
majors, then the semester would have been very different too. Since this
was a general education class, the most basic research class, and none
of the students were English majors (except the Japanese exchange
students), it didn't work out so well.

Marcia

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