Well, the semester is now underway, and I’m fairly certain that my students think I’ve lost my mind. Nevertheless, here is the briefest sketch of part of my plan:
In all of my courses, I am using an entirely new model. One goes like this: each class day, the students have assigned reading. I asked them to find something in the reading of interest (I wrote and distributed two full pages on how to identify a spark of interest, and how to become interested when there is no clear spark.) It can be anything: a word, a sentence, an idea, an argument, etc. I ask only that they identify their spark, and that they use it do something else – to move beyond their personal reaction. I don’t care, or at least I think I don’t, where they go with it, only that there is movement. Then they write a few paragraphs describing their spark and their movement. They end their writing with a discussion question of some kind – anything open, as long as they can trace it back to their spark. I spend a few minutes in class glancing at the writings, and choose a few to start. Then we talk.
That’s it. That’s the class. Their final grades depend, as entirely as I can politically manage, on their engagement in this process. It seems to me that in order to do what I’m asking, they have to do a fair amount of what I remain committed to calling “thinking.”
I don’t yet know whether this is sheer pedagogical brilliance, or evidence that my standards have sunk to an all-time low. It starts this week. I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, if you’re reading this…any thoughts?