Watch Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Symphony, on YouTube, describing how he reframes the class experience for his students. His students are not college students, and he is teaching a master class in directing, but I think this has applicability for thinking about where we want our students to be by the end of our class. Listen to this–its inspirational whether you think it applies in your classroom or not.
Work (How to Give An A) by Benjamin Zander
Since I am on a personal mission to never assign a “term paper” again, but to reinvent research projects and writing in my classes, I have enjoyed these posts in the CHE. The recent one is about doing away with the term paper, but I also like the earlier one that defends term papers. Both provide some good ideas about how we get our students to produce better thinking in writing.
“Lets Kill the Term Paper”
“Blogs and Term Papers” (in defense of term papers)
In an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled “So many hands to hold in the classroom,” Lynda Lambert argues that she is seeing a significant uptick in the number of students who cannot think for themselves and demand from the instructor a road map that will lead to an “A.” She writes, “Unfortunately, following a map may teach them how to navigate, but it does not teach them how to drive. Few students seem to be able to find their way through their courses anymore without that map. And, interestingly, they hold the instructor responsible for their lack of learning if she does not provide GPS coordinates.”
Are we seeing this in our Penn classrooms, is the writer being curmudgeonly, what do you think?
Interesting article in the CHE about teaching students “not just how to think about course material, but rather how to think through the material. The idea is to help students learn how we, as practitioners of our disciplines, analyze, make meaning, understand, look at the world, and create.”
I read Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right this summer because of having read some columns in CHE talking about the usefulness of checklists in teaching. Specifically, if there are things that you really want students to get right, such as how you want papers to be formatted and presented, a well-designed checklist may help. For example, I am always frustrated that my course’s research paper never looks the way I want it. So I am going to design a checklist (and if you read Gawande, this has to be done carefully so as not to have so much stuff on it that it becomes overwhelming) to try to accomplish this. I am going to require that students sign and turn in the checklist along with the final paper.
I am also thinking that checklists might be a good way to teach skills over time. If I design a checklist for learning to read history literature, for example, it could then becomes a starting point for the next class discussion not only about content, but about the conventions of the literature itself.
I have a copy of Gawande in 363 if you want to take a look at it! Its a short read but really smart and compelling.
Interesting article on the relationship between difficulty and student learning/retention in the CHE on June 3, 2012.
“The benefits of making it harder to learn”