But during my sabbatical and the summer afterwards, I started reflecting more. Part of this was inspired by my visit to my friend Dr. S., who recently won a college-wide award for her teaching. Her institution is different from mine – different students, different work allocation – but one basic point remains the same: what we think our students need may not be what they actually need.
As it happens, this semester's courseload is the perfect laboratory to experiment, as I have the entire range of courses:
- 100-level gen-ed course, 50-ish students, mostly non-majors. Goals: teach them the basic content; make them decent writers; get them to think analytically and critically (and to understand why this last thing is important more generally).
- 300-level survey course in Medieval Stuff, 25-ish students, mostly majors (though not necessarily medievalists). Goals: basic content; better writing; higher-level analysis; basic independent research skills.
- Grad historiography course, 7 students, medievalists all. Goals: introduce them to some of the classics of the discipline, get them to understand the nature of historiography, and how each of the works are situated in the history of the discipline; move their writing from acceptable to elegant, and their analysis from superficial to incisive; advanced independent research.
What I decided to do, coming in part III.