I am always on the lookout for ways to become a better teacher, and in my undergraduate teaching so far I’ve been very focused on developing courses in which in-class discussion and expository writing skills can be linked together through syllabi which encourage students to see learning as a the process of entering into a discussion with authors they encounter and the scholarly tradition out of which those authors emerge (note to potential employers: I am also deeply committed to publication and research. Plus I also love committee work and professional service. Much more than those pesky other applicants).
My background to this comes from “The University of Chicago Writing Center”:http://writing-program.uchicago.edu/index.htm. Now that I am located in Honolulu, though, I keep searching for other inspiration as I continue to work on my classroom teaching. I recently stumbled across “the web site for The New Humanities Reader”:http://www.newhum.com/ and I must say I am really blown away by their approach. I didn’t even know there were new humanities and here they’ve already got a reader! If I was ever teaching a composition class — rather than teaching an intro anthro class with a composition component — I would seriously adopt this as my textbook. I mean this is the first time I’ve ever been tempted to adopt any textbook. In fact I am tempted to see whether I can’t make it fit into my anthro course. The authors, bless their souls, have included lots of great content from their program on the website, including a set of links to authors for their students to explore. But what I find most impressive is the “teacher’s manual”:http://www.newhum.com/2e/for_teachers/resource_manual/index.html. This material is fantastic, and I certainly plan to use it more in my teaching.
Coming as I did from a liberal arts background, I have a strong sense of how a ‘discussion’ or ‘seminar’ style class ought to be run, but of course no idea of how my students managed to implant this ideal in me. From what I’ve seen so far, the New Humanities Reader looks like a great way to explicitly explain how ideals like ‘socratic dialogue’ or ‘problem-based discussion’ can actually be achieved in class.