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Showing posts from February, 2014

The Anechoic Classroom

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After 24 years of teaching I have any number of cheap gimmicks to get students talking in class: group projects, problem solving exercises, staged debates and a few time-tested chin-scratchers that can prompt them to heave their hearts into their mouths.  I've even been known to fake the occasional bout of laryngitis. But I confess to being stymied by the spring section of my first-year honors seminar.  A more somnolent lot you will not find.

The cynical explanation for a class of non-talkers is they aren't doing the reading and don't wish to be found out.  I know this group is doing the reading, however.  I can tell by the quality and thoughtfulness of their written work.  I know you sometimes run across the odd silent student who seldom says anything but is actually processing things on a deep level.  But I've never run across an entire roomful of such people. I don't think that's it.

Okay, theory number two: they are terrified of saying something dumb. In W…

Answering my Holden

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So last week in the first-year seminar we talked about the various kinds of learning strategies that students use in college. Surface learners do their best to memorize and regurgitate the material they suspect will show up on an exam, operate in survival mode and often feel a great deal of dissatisfaction and boredom with their college experience.   

Strategic learners, on the other hand, are adept at gaming the system, intuiting what the professors want to hear, and often have a glittering GPA without learning much more than how to obtain a glittering GPA. And they're just as bored and unsatisfied with college.

My first-year students recognized and even self-identified as these kinds of learners.  They were a little less able to recognize something called deep learning, an approach that is internally motivated, personally satisfying and often transformative. Deep learners don't ignore grades, but they don't operate solely for the grade.  They keep their eyes on the pri…

Breaking Radio Silence

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I'm not sure why I've gone so long without posting.  The semester came to a close, the lassitude of Winter Break came and went, and a new semester began.  I often thought about and dismissed topics to write on, but nothing itched and scratched at me enough that I had to set it down in words.

I learned a couple of things in that writing program years ago.  I learned that I lacked the ambition necessary to become a serious writer, but I also learned that you can't wait around for the muses. Sometimes you need to start without them, so here goes:

This new semester has begun well (they always do). I'm especially keen on my Humanities 102 section. The students have really taken to Dante.  We finished the Inferno on Tuesday and this morning they will be commencing their CFDs (crappy first drafts) for their unit synthesis papers.  So today I'll be doing in-class triage, hopping from student to student and answering queries on thesis statements, citing evidence, formulati…