May 16, 2012 12:00AM
Pittsburg State University English Professor Paul McCallum says one of the things that makes teaching so much fun is when students exceed even his highest expectations.
McCallum said from the beginning, he knew the students in his English 771 (Major Authors) class this past spring were capable of doing more than most, so he decided to give them more leeway than usual.
“Traditionally, I had always assigned a major research paper,” McCallum said. “But I knew I had such high quality students that I allowed them to choose a project of their choosing.”
McCallum said the assignment triggered an explosion of creativity in the class, which focuses on the English novelist Jane Austen. The students presented many diverse projects, including a Jane Austen cooking demonstration and even an equestrian lesson, but three board games caught his attention because of their visual impact and their level of detail.
“There was a huge wow factor,” McCallum said of the day the students presented their games. “I didn’t expect the quality to be what it was.”
Susan Schreiner created a Jane Austen trivia game, Robin Mooney created one called “Playing Jane,” and a team of Jamie Fenoglio, Lora Winters and Brandi Unruh created a game they called “Jane Austen.” For all of them, it was a semester-long task that took uncounted hours of work.
“This was far more time consuming than I expected,” said Schreiner.
Winters said her group’s work began with the basics. “We spent a lot of time just on the rules,” she said.
All of the students agreed that the process was a definite learning experience. They researched Austen and the world in which she lived for scores of trivia questions and learned what a significant impact the author has had on subsequent authors.
And now that the semester is over and the work is done, they hope they may even get to play the games.
“We’ve just been too busy!” several of the students said at once.