Wednesday, December 15, 2010

creative teching

Well, it's been a while. And the name on this blog isn't up to date. I mean Betty and I have been back from Sierra Leone since summer 2009. But I did say I wanted to focus on teaching next. So here goes for the moment, and please comment.
I have been developing a teaching style that stems in part from Paulo Frere's Pedagogy of the Oppressed. He cautions us not to treat students as empty vessels into which we 'pour' knowledge. I agree. And I have a quote in my office from Benjamin Franklin which reads: Tell me and I forget; teach me and I remember; involve me and I learn. I like that.
So, putting the two together, where does that lead one. Your version may be different, but here's my current take:
1. Respect the intelligence students have: instead of pouring in information, involve students in discovering information and theories that make some sense of that information.
2. On a practical level, this has led me to begin allowing students to choose reading assignments for themselves and fellow students.
3. Critical thinking: instead of accepting summarizations of these readings, I accept only (a) arguments from the readings; (b) counterarguments students can come up with from other readings or their own thoughts; (c) linkage - the hard part - to some other readgins or cases.
4. This frustrates students looking for just lectures and exams. Unfortunately for large classes exams end up multiple choice. I don't even think exams tell us much anymore. Assignments throughout the term, research papers, and community service, give students a better opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
OK - that's enough for now, especially since I have no idea if anyone is going to see this. But if you have seen this, please share your thoughts.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

democratic teaching model; getting back in touch

Dear friends,
As the Spring academic term winds down, I wanted to share with you the very positive news from my classes this Spring. In further developing the concept of a democratic teaching model, I have been very pleased with the quality of student papers and discussions. The students have written solid papers that analyze instead of merely summarize scholarly articles. We have explored together various geographic regions including Latin America, Africa, Asia, and students have made very impressive presentations. The usual 10-minute presentations generally last most of the hour as presenters shift to leading discussions.

I am still exploring (probably always will be)effective teaching methods. I find myself coming half circle back to offering more (mini) lectures on theories, while at the same time allowing students to help choose (and assign to other students) readings, negotiate grading structure, and agree on class format. I still have requirements for a research paper and community service.

I would be most interested in anyone sharing their thoughts on effective teaching - and learning. We can start a facebook group for anyone interested.

But I feel as if those of you who have enjoyed Betty's and my Sierra Leone blog and want to continue with this one are folks who share a common interest in learning, travel, and sharing ideas. Not sure what the best format is, but would love to hear from everyone who either follows this blog, or happens to come across it. We could set up a facebook group; I use facebook now (for the first time) with my classes. I still need to set up a blog alert for those who said "YES" to wanting to continue with this one. Am actually not sure how one does that other than to send an email notice. Any suggestions?

Hope to hear from you. Google offers translation, so if I can use it, that means anyone can join in using their own language. Please, no commercial material and only posts one can share with families.