Thursday, December 11, 2008

Best thing I've read on pedagogy all year

Mark Goodacre points to some reflections by E.P. Sanders printed in the Duke graduate program in Religion faculty news on teaching Biblical Studies to undergrads. Sanders's piece on "Teaching and Learning" begins on page 3. Here's an excerpt:
I think that the greatest moment in a teacher’s life is seeing a student have an “ah ha” moment by his or her own endeavor. The instructor’s clever or even memorable phrasing is worth much less. I began my career by overestimating students: I did not realize how much they needed repetition and the practice of describing texts and ideas in their own words. The more patient I was, and the harder I worked at getting them to see things for themselves—rather than offering my own glib solutions of difficulties—the better I was at teaching and the more rewarding I found the activity. The hardest thing to do—at which I often failed in my early years—is to find the students’ own level. They are not at your level: few are as smart as you are,
and none know as much as you do. The best way to find their level is to give assignments early in the term that require them to write. And then you have to read their work carefully.
I confess I haven't read much on pedagogy this year, and this piece is fresh on my mind, but it is still very good. Read the whole thing.

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