Monday, February 25, 2013

Prompting the "learning emotions"

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop put on by Linda Nilson from Clemson University. The aim of Linda's workshop was to identify teaching techniques that, based on extant research on learning and cognition, enhance deep learning, retention, and retrieval.

There was an abundance of rich material in her workshop — some of which I may post about at a later date. But I wanted to share a particularly intriguing suggestion Linda offered concerning the "learning emotions."

Monday, February 18, 2013

Playing Cards and Structured Participation

Inspired by this post over at Faculty Focus on using playing cards to divide students up into groups, I decided to get myself a set of playing cards. Instead of using them for group work, however, I use them to make sure that everyone in class participates. I give each student a card at the beginning of class. The first time a student participates they hand in their card. I keep track of the ones I'm missing, so, as the end of class approaches, I start softly pushing the students who haven't participated by saying things like "My three of spades is still missing." or "Where did my four of hearts go?" This is a great activity to run on the first few days of class as it allows most students to feel comfortable participating and it creates an open class environment.

The new twist I took on this recently was to use it to have every student practice distinguishing their own ideas from their reading of the author. I had encountered difficulty with this in many papers. Following the philosophy of They Say, I Say, a very useful book to teach first year students college writing, I came up with a list of templates such as:

  • X argues that… but I disagree because…
  • X proposes that … but X overlooks the assumption that…
  • Philosopher X doesn't explicitly say that P, but it seems to me that he's assuming …..because...
  • X’s point that …. connects to the larger issue….
  • X’s example that …. also shows that…
I first discussed with students the importance of paraphrasing charitably, of making their own contribution, and of distinguishing between the two.I then asked students to participate using some version of the "X argues... I think..." structure.  I gave them a handout with a list of templates, though I encouraged students to use their own as long as they clearly paraphrased someone else's position first and distinguished it from their own contribution. Somebody else could be either the philosopher we read or a student in the class. This led to some nice back and forth between students in which they had to paraphrase each others contributions in order to make their own contribution. Some students had difficulty doing this at first and I would help them out as they talked. Student had also written a one page reading response for that day. I had students use the last 5 minutes of class to reread their responses before handing them into me, and underlining the parts of it in which they could have done a better job of distinguishing their own position from their interpretation of the author we read. By the end of the class, I think the point of the lesson was clear to almost everyone and I'm hoping to see some improvement in their papers.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

100 ideas to improve higher ed

The National Association of Scholars, a conservative-leaning organization of academics, has published what it declares to be '100 great ideas for higher ed.' I'd be interested to hear reactions. Many of them strike me as focusing on superficial matters — sure, if we instate faculty dress codes, eliminate the journalism major, and offer courses on etymology and academic freedom, then all will be well in higher education! More seriously though: Are there some good ideas here? And which of these ideas are truly awful?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Self Discovery and Transformation

Somewhat inspired by this article on the self in self-help, I'm crafting a freshman seminar tentatively entitled
"Self: Discovery and Transformation." I want to include philosophical, literary, and some "pop" readings.  I'm thinking I'll structure it around: discovery of the self, the self in action, the embedded self, and transforming the self. I have a list of readings that is way too long as it is:

·        St. Augustine, Confessions
·        Descartes, Rene, Selections from the Meditations
·        Hume, David, Selections from An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
·        Perry,   A Dialogue On Personal Identity And Immortality
·        Frankfurt, Harry, “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of  a Person”
·        Velleman, David, “So It Goes”
·        Taylor, Charles, “Responsibility for Self”
·        DuBois, W.E., Selections from The Souls of Black Folk
·        Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X
·        Beauvoir, Simone, Selections from The Second Sex
·        Walpola, Rahula, Selections from What the Buddha Taught
·        Dennett, Daniel “Self as the Narrative Center of Gravity
·        Nietzsche, Selections
·        Nehamas, Selections from Nietzsche: Life as Literature
·        Sartre, Jean-Paul, Nausea
·        Gilbert, Margaret, Eat Pray Love

I would appreciate any other additions/suggestions/thoughts about this reading list. It should be accessible to first semester first-year college students and the class is linked to a composition section, so the focus will be on college writing. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The ethics of teaching

The long awaited International Encyclopedia of Ethics has just been published.  This looks like it will be an excellent resource. Readers of this blog may be particularly interested in my entry on the ethics of teaching.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Teaching Gun Control

Has anyone done at least a section in a course on gun control? If so, what did you do? How did discussion go? What guidance can you offer for what to expect, what to look out for, and so forth? What readings or other materials are good to use?