The Semester is Dead, Long Live the Semester

Another semester is staggering to a close marching toward a triumphant conclusion. There is a familiar consistency in the rhythm of the academic year; tree branches become bare, days get shorter, the Detroit Lions lose football games–you can almost set your watch by it. Yet part of that rhythm is the reality that as one semester ends, another one has essentially begun. And while we at least start a little later in January, the Spring semester looms over us. WATCHING. WAITING. WE’RE DOOMED. 1367686867113930
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Lecture Me–Really?

You may have seen the recent New York Times op-ed piece by Molly Worthen, in which she defends the “traditional lecture” against what she sees as pedagogical threats posed by “the active learning craze” and a “populist resentment of experts.” The essay lit up social media in academic circles, and was shared and re-posted widely. Worthen certainly speaks to the things professors value: students who can take good notes, model critical argument, and learn to listen both closely and deeply.  Her argument that “comprehension and reasoning,” the two bedrock skills for “the essentials of working life and citizenship,” are the products of lecturing done well appeals to the content-geek in all of us. Who among us doesn’t have a vision of ourselves up on stage, waxing erudite about the intricacies of our discipline to an admiring throng of students hanging raptly upon our every word? Worthen’s call to return to the lecture and rediscover the essentials of a humanistic education is a seductive argument indeed. Continue reading “Lecture Me–Really?”