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?”

Doing Things Differently, or Doing Different Things?

The new tools of teaching are going to revolutionize the role of the professor in the classroom. Gone are the days in which the teacher occupies center stage–this new technology replaces traditional classroom instruction. Soon, students will learn via the screen, and our role as faculty will be rendered obsolete. Technology changes everything, but is change always good?

This was the conversation when televisions and VCRs became prevalent in classrooms.

You look surprised.

Did you think I was talking about something else? Continue reading “Doing Things Differently, or Doing Different Things?”

Thinking about Structures

On Wednesday, over a dozen faculty and staff came to Conversations on Teaching* to talk about power and privilege in the classroom. Our discussion kept coming back to structures; what kind of structures are already in place, and what structures might we be reproducing, that put up barriers to students’ learning? It was a powerful conversation (pun partially intended), one that opened a lot of avenues of thought about what it is we do with and for our students. (You can access the slides from this session here: Language and Motivation, Privilege and Power, and the references and further reading are here.) In the spirit of continuing that conversation, this week’s links offer some resources, food for thought, and even challenges as we work to discern the structures in higher education that prevent us and our students from being as successful as we should be.  Continue reading “Thinking about Structures”

Instructions Not Provided

When I taught my first class, I had that sinking feeling that everyone else had somehow gotten an instruction manual while I was left to drift on my own, awash in a sea of skeptical students. I had a similar reaction when I became a parent: where are the damn instructions? I don’t know what to do. Someone could get hurt here! Alas, as all you parents out there can testify, there is no instruction manual–and the books that present themselves as such are WRONG. We are left to figure things out for ourselves. Continue reading “Instructions Not Provided”

The Choices We Make

Are we unfair to students?

Can our decisions, no matter how good our intentions, hurt student learning?

Are we teaching for ourselves, or for our students?

These are challenging questions, ones that make me uncomfortable when I hear them. Part of this discomfort stems from defensiveness; how dare you assume I’m doing things intentionally to hurt student learning? How dare you question my assumptions? But another part of that discomfort stems from an awareness that maybe these questions have a point. Continue reading “The Choices We Make”