Teaching K-pop, Part 3: Content, or Look Ma! No Books!

Image by MichaelGaida from Pixabay

In Part 2, I talked about how to help students develop knowledge and skills (assignments) and how to evaluate what they know and are able to do (assessments). Finally, in Part 3, we get to what many of us consider to be the fun part: deciding what material to cover and activities to do in our course.

I made two decisions about the content for my course.  The first was that I would not require students to purchase a book on Korean popular culture. I want students to have a critical framework for examining Korean popular culture, but I also did not want them to get hung up on academic jargon. This is an elective course with multiple majors, not a required major course culminating in a major research project.   Moreover, I was more interested in students being able to apply scholarly concepts and see the impact of historical context than their ability to recite this or that theory. So I opted to have students read journal articles, which are more accessible. I will supplement this information with mini interactive lectures that also show them how to apply scholarly ideas.  I have also allowed flexibility in my choice of other course material. Other than choosing our course K-drama, I have decided to use current events in Korean popular culture and relate them to the historical context and scholarly ideas we will encounter in the readings. This will keep class fresh and relevant for students.

The second was that I would emphasize discussions about what we were learning. Fully a quarter of my course is devoted to some kind of discussion. My course is online and asynchronous. I know many of my colleagues worry about how to maintain student engagement, since it is so different from their face-to-face experience. I’m taking a page out of the K-pop handbook, and allowing my students to have smaller but more frequent interactions about the material by having them respond to specific topics I pose. By guiding the discussion, I also model how students can also post engaging discussion questions.  I’m using Slack (my first time) to have students talk and work with each other and engage the material. Slack is also an app that students can access on their phones, as opposed to our clunky LMS (yes, Blackboard, I’m talking about you). Slack also allows you to post multimedia, so I encourage students to share things that are related to their interests, much like you would among your friends.  I also know such conversations are fruitful to me as a scholar.

These decisions also support student learning in a pandemic.   I really like this piece, “Videoconferencing Alternatives: How Low-Bandwidth Teaching Will Save Us All”  by Daniel Stanford on low-bandwidth teaching. He reminds us that “courses that require frequent use of high-bandwidth technologies can limit their ability to fully participate in course activities. This can jeopardize their success in the course, create a sense of shame and anxiety and leave them feeling like second-class citizens.”

Image Credit: Daniel Stanford

By using Slack for collaboration and discussion, I hope to keep the course accessible for all students to increase the chances that not only will students continue to participate in the course, but will have more effective learning as they do so. I know my students are familiar with chat and messaging so if they can use these in our course, they will be more likely to be engaged in the class and its content.


Daniel Stanford. “Videoconferencing Alternatives: How Low-Bandwidth Teaching Sill Save Us All.” iddblog. 16 Mar 2020. https://www.iddblog.org/videoconferencing-alternatives-how-low-bandwidth-teaching-will-save-us-all/ . (Accessed 27 Aug 2020).

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Teaching K-pop, Part 3: Content, or Look Ma! No Books! by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Teaching K-pop, Part 2: Assignments and Assessments (ew!)

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

In Part 1, I considered student learning outcomes, the foundation of good course design, and how they relate to my learning goals in teaching Korean popular culture. In Part 2, I cover how I determine to how to evaluate what students know or can do by the end of the course (assessments) as well as the kind of activities that would help them develop the knowledge and skills they would need  (assignments).

I cannot stress enough that if you are teaching your course online, in a hybrid scenario or face to face, you are still teaching in a pandemic. This means flexibility will be key to managing unforeseen circumstances can impact you and your student’s engagement in your course. Such circumstances can include your students being quarantined or getting sick, or someone they live with experiencing the same. We can design our courses to be rigorous and address such disruptions.  I try to keep this in mind when thinking about assessment and assignments in my course. Don’t be so hard on yourself to design the perfect course either. Remember, we’re in a pandemic, y’all. Your class is going to be good because you have a wealth of information and your sparkling personality.

Let’s start with assessments.  My highest-order thinking goal is for students to analyze Korean popular culture.  I’m going to measure how well students can do this by having them write a long-form web article (1500-2000 words) where they use scholarly concepts to interpret multimedia sources.  This is the major assessment of the course.  The rubric (later post!) that I will develop will ascertain how well students do such things as articulate a thesis, use sources as evidence and create a well-supported argument.

But before students can do any of these, I’ll have to teach them and give them practice. This is where assignments come in. We also call them learning support tasks.  They are basically anything that helps students acquire fundamental knowledge and skills necessary for later higher-order thinking. They are low-stakes assignments, worth a few points in a student’s overall grade, and cover a small portion of a larger assignment.

I start using these assignments in week 1. Students choose their own topics on the first day of class, so they will be motivated because they are able to focus on things that interest them. K-pop cover dance your jam? Have at it. Down with K-drama? Cool. Every other week they will post and talk about sources they find related to that topic so they are regularly engaged with their topic and sources.

In addition, students will write short-form articles (200-250 words) every other week.  They are worth 2% each and are always on the student’s topic. The short-form articles are also cumulative. For example, for the first one, I students focus on just crafting a main, controlling idea. The next one, in addition to crafting a main, controlling idea, they also focus on using sources to support the argument. You get the idea. Because they are low-stakes, they give students the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills without worrying about mistakes costing them in terms of their grade. They are also motivated because they are following their interests. Not only are these low-stakes assignments connected to each other, they also form the foundation for the long-form web article. The long-form article represents an extension of the writing they do for the short-form assignments, so that towards the latter part of the class, they are largely focused on revision.

Normally, students would have probably 6 of these short form writing assignments. For this course, I reduced the number to 4 and focused each one on just the most important things I wanted students to be able to do. For example, normally I focus on having students do research with scholarly sources. However, this is not a research class, and I’m more interested in having students apply certain scholarly concepts to examples they encounter in Korean popular culture. So I spend more time making sure they can apply the concepts to music and music video, K-drama and film than finding scholarly sources.  That type of scholarly research is not part of my student learning outcomes. Coco Chanel once said: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”  Similarly, I looked at my syllabus and ended up taking out several assignments. I realized that some assignments were redundant. I found I could combine others because they were doing similar work towards my student learning outcomes.  Less is more. I feel my course still covers a good range of material and challenges students.

Finally, I considered how I can make this setup work in a pandemic.  To anticipate disruptions in students’ lives, I will drop the lowest grade for short-form writing assignment. I will also provide copious opportunities for extra credit. This can ease students’ anxiety over getting  sick or having to be out for at least two weeks. This way, students do not have to worry and can do their best when they can do their best. This may feel strange for some people because they have an idea in their heads about  how their course should go. But when your course is well-aligned, it can reduce anxiety because everything is centered around what students will learn. At the same time, you can still have some spontaneity in your course. Discussions can be unpredictable. Student choices about topics will run the gamut. And if something isn’t working, feel free to change it on the fly.

Designing your course with assignment and assessments that are linked to your student learning outcomes and anticipating disruption will help you tremendously in the coming semester.

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Teaching K-pop, Part 2: Assignments, Assessments (ew!) and Modalities by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Teaching K-pop, Part 1: The Most Important Thing

Image by Simone Lugli from Pixabay

Before deciding on all the cool content to include in my course, KORE 320: Korean Popular Culture, there is one thing that I had to do, something that forms the foundation of the course. Figuring out this one thing made designing the course easier and will make for more effective learning for students. It was not readings, content, assignments or assessments.  The one thing I needed to decide was: What do I want students to know or be able to do by the end of the course?

In other words, it was the dreaded student learning outcomes. Look, I get it. Most faculty first encounter student learning outcomes as part of program assessment or curricular development, and it’s not fun. Within these contexts, it seems very formulaic and disconnected from student learning. But the fact of the matter is, knowing what you want students to know and do by the end of the course helps you to align everything else: readings, assignments and assessments. This means that everything has a purpose in the course. Students appreciate this because nothing is busywork.

In my KORE 320 course, I’m focusing on using Korean popular culture to teaching students about digital literacy, digital curation and digital writing because most of us outside of Korea engage with Korean popular culture through digital means. Students will learn how to locate and evaluate online media, describe the development and global spread of Korean popular culture, use scholarly concepts to interpret Korean popular culture and develop skills through the use of digital, web-based tools.

While they look concise, coming up with my learning outcomes wasn’t easy.  I spent weeks honing them. Why? Because I had to make sure that before students did advanced things (known in HE circles as higher-order thinking)  they had opportunities to work up to them (by doing lower-order thinking). Cue Blooms Taxonomy!

Image: Fractus Learning

For example, I want students to be able to analyze Korean popular culture (higher-order thinking). But before they can do that, I have to give them the opportunity to be able to define concepts that can be used to analyze Korean popular culture (lower-order thinking) and provide opportunities for them to practice applying those concepts to Korean popular culture (midway between lower-order and higher-order). I have some nifty ideas about getting my students to do this (future post), and as fun as it is to start with the readings or the historical and cultural context or the videos or the dramas, I needed to work this out first. As instructors, student learning outcomes help us to map out how learning happens in our courses and create well-designed courses. Other factors can also inform your decisions. Where does the course fall in the curriculum? Is it required or an elective? Are there program outcomes it needs to meet? Is it a general education course? These can shape how you craft your outcomes.

One thing you’ll notice quickly is that you may not be able to cover as much breadth as you’d like. I know, I know, you want to do all the things. I could teach this whole course on 2nd generation K-pop idols. But, there is a good amount of research that suggests that depth is beneficial for student learning.  How many times have you taught a course and had to cut material? How sure were you that students did all that reading? Depth gives students the tools they need to encounter ideas they may encounter beyond your material.

When a course is well-designed, then it is easier to know how it might be able to change to address shifting circumstances, like changing modalities (future post) because of a pandemic. Notice this post does not start out with the modality of teaching (i.e. face-to-face, hybrid, online), because that’s not the most important thing. If you know your outcomes and how you will measure them (future post), then it is easier to change modalities because the foundation of your course is set.

Spending some time crafting your outcomes will lay a solid foundation for your course.

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Teaching K-pop, Part 1: The Most Important Thing by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.