“It is a sign of wasted effort if an activity from which students are expected to learn is not enjoyable for them. It means that they are only learning the wrong things, namely that they can’t succeed in learning what they are trying to learn – and also, probably, that they don’t really want to learn it in any case.”
– Frank Smith, The Book of Learning and Forgetting (New York: Teachers College Press, 1998), p. 87.
I’ve started to have panic attacks about my summer teaching.
The Spring term ended last week and Summer term begins next week, so I’m in the midst of a too-quick turn-around. Still, I think I have enough time to get my syllabi and other documents in order before I step back into the classroom on Tuesday.
Oh, but what’s in those syllabi gives me the heebie-jeebies!
I am making two significant changes to my course design . . . wait. That’s too polite and constrained a way to put it. Let me try again.
I’m blowing the lid off my courses, with two explosive charges. Continue reading “Courses with the Lid Off”
(Explained using only the ten hundred words people use the most often, just like at that one not-real place I found with my computer. I wrote this using a thing the guy who makes that not-real place made to help people to write more simply.)
I work at a big college (the kind that has a lot of little colleges in it). This week I went to a meeting where some of the top leaders of my big college talked about how they want a lot of us in my big college to do new things in teaching.
They said a lot of stuff about how teaching is good and how teaching matters a lot to people and how important it is to do new things in teaching . . . and especially how important it is that people in my big college do the new things before anyone else does them.
What they did not say, but I thought I heard anyway, is how they do not really know what teaching is.
Continue reading “Doing New Things in Teaching (with more words added later)”
As previously noted, scaffolding is an important element in problem-based learning:
it is an external and somewhat artificial version of a thinking process that is usually carried out internally. The idea is to direct students’ attention from the outside until they learn to direct their own attention themselves, from the inside
For drawing students’ attention to various kinds of basic values, I found the template for utility values the easiest to develop. I don’t want to go too far, just now, in speculating about why that should be the case, but I think it has something to do with the fact that utilitarianism is the product of an empiricist outlook, according to which the marks and measures of value are observable and the connections from action to its ethical implications largely a matter of empirical causality.
Here is the basic template:
For this template, focus on the action as something that happens in the world that has consequences that ripple out from it, affecting other people. This is largely a matter of material causality: my action causes x, which causes y, which causes z, and so on. Continue reading “Scaffolding: The Utility Template”
Well, most recently, I’ve been at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Ethics Across the Curriculum, just up the road in Greenville, SC.
Some conversations I had there made it clear that there might be good reason to resume posting to this blog, if only because people expressed interest in seeing updates on my course design projects and some of the materials I’ve developed.
In the very near future, look for more examples of scaffolding, and some observations on the courses I’m teaching this Fall.
Some months ago, I posted a template I provided to students in my engineering ethics class, to assist them in thinking about virtues and vices in considering various options for responding to a complex problem situation. This, I explained, is an example of scaffolding, which is a crucial element in problem-based learning: it is an external and somewhat artificial version of a thinking process that is usually carried out internally. The idea is to direct students’ attention from the outside until they learn to direct their own attention themselves, from the inside.
In using the template during the Spring and Summer terms, I learned a great deal about its meaning and its limits, on the basis of which I have revised the template itself and refined the instruction I give for using it.
Continue reading “Scaffolding: The Virtue Template, revised”