CHE Piece About Our Course Comes Out On Friday, April 17
Before I forget: We need you to make edits to the language for the Futures Initiative Scholar certificate (and for your students’ and your resumes). A version was in my last blog post and I sent you the link to the Google Doc earlier.
Please alert your students that the Chronicle of Higher Education piece about our course will be published this Friday. Once that is out, it will be clearer how the courses relate to one another. We are asking the CHE permission to have a pdf of the piece available for your students. The piece was edited quite a lot. There are no names in it now. But I think it still underscores how seriously we are reading the research on the best pedagogies for student success and for institutional change as well. It will be interesting to hear how your students react. I know this piece will receive a lot of attention.
A final comment in a different vein: in your mid-semester feedback for our course, a number of you made the comment that you didn’t see that these pedagogical techniques we’re sharing had much to do with your own research. This surprised me as student-centered pedagogy has transformed my own writing and research methods. “Meta” works for me. Perhaps it will be useful if I give a specific example.
On Sunday, I’m inviting over two scholar-writers, both considerably younger than me, whom I admire very much. Both are, like me, doing extremely in-depth, serious research that could be for a university book but, like me, they too are trying to translate that research into reading for a larger audience, perhaps a New Yorker level audience of serious readers. To inspire and inform our process we are reading a New Yorker writer, Atul Gawande, and his book Being Mortal. None of us is writing on the topic of medicine or healthcare or dying, but he has a remarkable ability to intermix data and anecdote and policy recommendations with the objective of changing the prevailing medical system and assumptions. We wish to do the same with our own writing.
When we get together, we’ll begin with a Think-Pair-Share exercise. We’re meeting at my house and I want us each to write down three writing strategies or techniques we learned from reading Being Mortal and that we think can be applied to our own writing. We’ll also write down three things we did not like. The usual 90 seconds for each. This helps to equalize a situation where one of us has written many books, another has written a handful of excellent books, and another has written a major article (in the New Yorker in fact) but is writing a first book. T-P-S is a remarkable way of making an equal footing in a situation that is equal in some ways but not in other. It allows everyone time to think and sort and everyone time to discuss and it gives a kind of overarching flow to the two precious hours we’ll be able to spend together and learn from one another.
In a free for all discussion, without such guidance, one voice can have an inequal power and dominance. T-P-S helps to structure what each person puts in to the conversation in order to maximize what each person can take away. I can think of almost no situation in which this device of structuring the writing, hearing, listening, and sharing isn’t productive. At least for me, it has been transformative.
I also find it is fantastic when one is feeling writer’s block come on. Given that we know that we rarely know all our assumptions–we are very good at duping ourselves–T-P-S opens up avenues of thought, imagination, creativity, and critique that can feel closed down by sharing those quick responses with others we trust and who may be going through a similar process. I hope that’s useful!