The Rhythms of the Semester: Implications for Practice, Persona

We recognize that in the march of the semester we begin on a different note than we end on. The early weeks hold promise and high hopes, both often curtailed when the first assignments are graded. The final weeks find us somewhere between being reluctant or relieved to see a class move on. There is an inexplicable but evident interaction between our teaching persona and the persona a class develops throughout a semester. Some structural factors influence both: among them—the type and level of a course, the discipline, the time of day, and whether the students are a cohort or a unique collection of individuals.
Calling attention to the structure of the semester: In research that tugs on the edges of something that we take for granted, Mann and colleagues (1970) describe how a structural arc in a semester influences the persona of a class and its faculty. Duffy & Jones (1995) built on Mann’s work by addressing the predictable swings of attitudes and emotions during three phases of a semester. There are no discrete boundaries nor fixed lengths of time in the three phases, and their generalizations have differing degrees of influence depending on the personas of the teacher and class. However, once each phase is understood, planning for them can occur.
Developing a community during the opening weeks: Most faculty and students approach the opening weeks of a semester with beliefs about fresh beginnings; students will do better and teachers will be better. These views influence how the …