A senior faculty member sat in on my class today, and said he was quite impressed and rarely sees such great discussions among undergrads (he even said that he thinks I did better than he could have himself—I think my youth is an advantage in getting students to speak up and be open, and not feel intimidated). My class had the usual Friday seminar discussion, this week it was on intelligence by way of this article by Malcolm Gladwell. They were lively, stayed within the theme, responded to one another, and nearly all of the class showed up in spite of the rainy day and most of them talked. The discussion went to areas that interested them and they talked amongst themselves with minimal intervention from me—I mainly tried to open up topics. I think part of the trick is to choose topics that are interesting or have potential to be interesting, to help students relate their own experiences, to help them articulate and sort out opinions and find where they agree and disagree with one another, and to use the text as a basis for discussion but not the only content of the discussion (i.e., instead of making sure I cover all parts of the text and we analyze it in depth, I use the text to introduce themes and ideas that we can talk about so it’s almost another participant in the conversation stating its own opinions, ideas, and questions). 7 years ago
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Lots of changes I’d make next time, including focusing more on what interests me and having students write short, informal reflection papers on the readings rather than discussing them cold. 7 years ago
Yesterday was the first day of my course. The students seem lively and generally willing to speak up. They seem to be respectful of one another and able to respond to one another. We seemed to get along well enough—they listened to me and asked me questions, and seem ready to participate and fulfill the requirements I set out. I think it will go well. 7 years ago
I have 35 students—this might make it tough to have a seminar. I’m worried that some people will take the opportunity to slip into the background, or worse, that no one (rather than everyone) will feel responsible for carrying the conversation and unfolding the text. I’ll have to make the material enticing (easy enough) and put on the pressure.
Update: And I have no media in my classroom. I had some interactive powerpoint lectures planned… now it looks like it will be me with my back to the class as I write on the dusty chalkboard, asking for answers from students with pre-assigned numbers. 7 years ago
This is going to be a snap after teaching my summer course.
I teach three days/ week for fifty minutes at a time. The first two days of the week will be “interactive lectures”—powerpoints that review some of the major points from the readings and some activities/ demonstrations that help students understand and apply what they’ve learned. The other day will be a seminar based on a text, often a primary source. I imagine that it might be difficult to initiate conversations at first, but I’m relying on students having enough interest in important questions and enough of a desire to learn about the world that they’ll catch on. 7 years ago
...while keeping in mind that I’m not here primarily to teach but to pursue my own education, and that I’m working with limited resources.
Ideally, my students will be able to articulate their thoughts clearly (in spoken and written form) and distinguish between argument and statement of opinion—better yet, they will be able to do this without constant reference to me, but in response to one another. They should be able to comprehend and summarize the ideas put forth in a book/ article/ lecture/ film and use those ideas to answer questions I pose to them or they pose to one another and themselves.
Since it’s an Intro. to Psychology course, I also hope to present the material in such a way that they find it relevant and interesting and want to know more about psychology. 7 years ago