After years of advocating that professors teach their own way, in a manner that suits they own pedagogy and talents, I still find myself avoiding the big one…discussion.
And yet, this term I’m teaching an early American history class, one I have not taught for many years, in which I have perversely planned a discussion every week.
So now, I’d better figure out how to do it. Yes, I have read many books, articles, and blog posts on creating good discussions. I’ve even done it with one of my classes online, after years of having discussion boards feature anything but discussion. And I’ve seen many wonderful instructors do a great job in the classroom. But in many ways, it isn’t ME.
It’s not only that I’m a classic lecturer. It’s that I tend to interrupt people (a major failing), and nod when a student says something cool in such a way that they tend to stop talking. I talk about openness and academic freedom and freedom of speech, and how I want them to talk openly. Then I keep talking.
So the question is how to change the format without changing my personality. Recently, planning the first big class discussion, I may have stumbled on to something. A step-by-step format that brings in ideas without it being me bringing them in. A process that keeps things focused enough that I can step back.
I have assigned an article for students to read for tomorrow: Why Study History? by Peter Stearns. It’s fairly straightforward, but I want to get at the deeper aspects. I’ve prepared one page to put on the screen and guide me through:
Stearns outlines several justifications for studying history.
What does he mean by:
Understanding peoples and societies?
The ability to assess?
Application: which elements are a factor in this case?
Confederate monuments (5:53)
AP history class protests of 2014 (3:24)
and this case?
Howard Zinn (3:06)
What’s the main reason you think we should study history? Use one point from each of the three cases to support your main point.
I’m hoping this heavily guided path will help keep me on track and allow for responses, by providing particular things to respond to as applications of a larger set of ideas they’ve discussed. We’ll see what happens…