Sunday, March 13, 2011

March 13, 2011 [Academic Work Post 8]: Collaborators Wanted

I’m going to keep this one pretty short and to the point: one of my two main goals for the week of spring break that looms (in a good way) before me, along with writing the first chapter of that book three about which I’ve blogged before, is to write an article to submit to Worcester State University’s online journal, Currents in Teaching and Learning. The article is going to focus on my gradual realization that, despite my general and continuing student-focused teaching philosophy, there are ways in which survey classes need to include content (both about the authors and texts and about American literature and history more generally) more fully than (to my mind) either first-year writing or upper-level literature courses (in both of which I remain entirely comfortable focusing on students’ individual voices and ideas and skills). More exactly, I’m going to highlight in the article a few ways I have begun trying to incorporate content and information into those surveys while maintaining the student focus, ways in which I’m working to get them including and talking about and analyzing the content that seems to me most worth our attention.
To my mind, the basic ways in which content and information can be communicated in a literature class are: lectures (or mini-lectures, anyway; I’ll never lecture for an entire class) from the professor; student presentations based on a bit of independent research; class work (either before or during our discussions) with supplementary materials (such as online ones) that can help contextualize a particular text or author; or individual research papers (or at least textual analysis papers that include research). Since I know many of my readers here are either teachers or students at one level and in one way or another, I wanted to put the question to you: which of those have you found best at helping your students or yourselves learn and analyze content information (whether biographical, historical, cultural, theoretical, etc)? Which make it more likely that the info will stick, and which less so? On a different note, which might help your students or you continue developing your own ideas, vs. which ones are more about learning and remembering information? And which seem to you the worst or least helpful on those different levels? (And, of course, what are some other ways to communicate content that I’m forgetting?)
Thanks in advance for thinking about this, and I promise that, if the article is accepted, I’ll thank you all in there somewhere! More tomorrow, on a very unique and interesting sub-genre of American fiction.

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