August 13, 2010

Pedagogical Crisis - Why should they care?

So, I have begun at Lee.

My colleagues and I have been enduring a number of long meetings. It's lots of good stuff, but it's lots of sitting for a borderline ADHD guy like me.

Wed. we heard from the university president, Dr. Paul Conn. Despite his long tenure as president (25 years) the man is clearly an educator first. He understands the minds and hearts of both professors and students and he has inspiring things to say about how to make the two meet. He's funny and passionate and wise.

Jeanette Norden, PhD
Vanderbilt School of Medicine
Yesterday, we were privileged to hear from Dr. Jeanette Norden who is a professor at Vanderbilt Medical school.  She has won numerous teaching awards and had very valuable and moving stories to tell.  Here are the three primary things I've taken from her seminar.
  1. Teach less better.
  2. Let the end goal(s) of the course inform every class.
  3. Model the kind of thinking you expect from them. (and the kind of person you hope they'll be)
It's numbers 1 and 2 that have me most concerned about the course I just finished putting together.  I have been asked to teach Drama Lit I.  A history course that traces the trends of theatre from Classical to Ibsen.  (that's 500 BCE to 1900 CE).   Anyway, there's a lot you can pack into a course like that and packed I have.

But yesterday I realized I was more worried about what I am teaching than why I am teaching it.  (A common rookie mistake according to Dr. Norden.)  So now I am left looking again at my syllabus with the following questions:
  1. Why will my students care about these plays and playmakers and their historical contexts?
  2. Is there a grand story to be told that will have more impact than details about sundry period styles and drama theory?
  3. Is it wise to try to create a "master narrative" for a class of postmodern students who respond better to multiple layered and fragmented narratives?
Wrestling with these questions is my task for the next few days.  It's scary and intimidating as all true growth is, but it reminds me of the fortunate position I am in.  I get paid to learn more about subjects that I love and devise the best ways to spread that love!  I could do much worse.


Matt Moser said...

This is a good post, Dan, but I wonder if your students will be as postmodern as you think. Might it be more likely that they'll have two incompatible worldviews coexisting alongside each other? Something like a proclivity for metanarrative *and* an ingrained training for relativistic tolerance? I bet you'll have a lot of students, especially at a Pentecostal school, who are more given to metanarrative than postmodernist thought.

DTB said...

These are the questions I grapple with the most, Dan. And i never seem to find answers that satisfy me for very long--which is probably best. I have reinvented all my lectures AGAIN this year precisely because I think I inadvertently started teaching a kind of student thinking and "being" behavior I don't actually subscribe to.

Anonymous said...

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