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Discussion Leading Project, Spring 2006

What It Is

Each of the teams we created during the second week of classes will be responsible for choosing a date and set of readings on which to lead class for roughly 30-45 minutes with a presentation of research each of the team members has done that helps the class gain new perspectives on the readings for that day and a guided discussion of the implications of those perspectives on the class's interpretations of the readings for that day.

By the second Friday after the conclusion of your teaching segment, your team must turn in a two-to-four-page team-authored reflection on the experience of presenting your research and leading a discussion on its implications. In this group-authored essay, you all should describe the research and planning for discussion-leading that the team did, explain and justify your research and discussion-leading plans, comment on what actually happened in the class, and comment on whether and how you'd rethink any aspect of the presentation project in light of any differences between your plans, expectations, and experiences in it. You may turn this in over email or turn in a print-out of the essay in my box in the English department office (Fenton 277) before 5 pm Friday.

As well, each group member must also email me a 1-to-2-page self- and team-assessment of your own contributions to the team's successes and failures (including your roles as a researcher, planner, and discussion leader), of how well the team worked together, and of what you learned by doing this project. This is meant to be a more informal, individualized email, but it should still be done well. It too is due the second Friday after your teaching segment is completed before 5 pm.

What For

It's a truism that you don't really learn something until you try to teach it to someone else, but there is nevertheless a good deal of truth to this cliche. Being responsible for teaching anything makes you pay a lot more attention when you're learning it, since you'll be in the position of setting goals for the 30-45 minutes of class time that you'll be presenting your research and leading the ensuing discussion. And because this particular project is not just an individual endeavor but something you have to work on with others to make it work, there's an added dimension of cooperative learning and decision-making in the mix, as well. Given that you all are relative newcomers to this field, I thought each group would better understand where the sources of confusion or frustration might be than I might be able to, as well as how to communicate the key ideas and issues, perhaps even better than I would (given that all this was new to me over a decade ago and how easy it is to forget how difficult something is to learn once you've learned it!). Hence, you all have the opportunity to "peer teach" in a way that could well be more effective than my own teaching at times. At the very least, you all will be exposed to a variety of teaching styles and, when teaching, have the opportunity to draw on what you feel are the most effective and appropriate teaching strategies for the material you all will be wrestling with.

How To

Each team's main goals are 1) to present research that you feel opens up new perspectives on the readings for that day, and 2) to help its classmates consider the strengths and weaknesses, the pros and cons, the value/utility, the stakes, and the implications of the research you have presented. Ultimately it is up to your team to decide how best to proceed--what you want your peers to consider and learn, what topics/texts/contexts/concepts/methodologies/debates you want to emphasize, what mix of "methods" you want to use (lecture, open discussion, small-group work, debate, game, etc.) to reach the goals you set and the overarching goals required by the assignment, how you divide the preseting and discussion-leading work among yourselves during the class meeting you'll be leading--after planning with each other and consulting with me.

At least one week before your teaching segment is slated to begin, your team must meet with me for feedback and advice on your ideas and plans. This means that your group must meet even earlier than that to generate some preliminary and not-so-preliminary plans. When your team meets with me, you all should have already completed your research, developed a good sense of your presentation/discussion goals for the class meeting, brainstormed options for the methods to reach those goals, and generated questions about particular readings or concepts that you need answered in order to firm up your plans on your goals and methods. I'll give you an overview of how I see the readings fitting together and feedback on your plans. You may meet with me as many times as you like before your teaching session, but that first meeting must take place at least a week before the day your team is scheduled for, so be sure to meet early as a team and make use of email to exchange ideas and plans before that.

In essence, I don't want to limit the creativity of your team's approach to running a portion of a class period by laying out a step-by-step approach. So much is dependent on your individual interests and interpretations, your beliefs about the most effective modes of researching and discussion-leading, the way the people in your team interact with each other, and the process by which you narrow down the many possible options down to your top one to three, that it's probably impossible to create such a list, anyway. But what I can do is offer some examples of kinds of things you might consider doing when running--or getting ready to run--a portion of the class period.

Grading Criteria

Your grade for this segment of the course will be based on a combination of factors: my overall assessment of your team's research, lesson plan, teaching effectiveness, and commitment to working collaboratively; the quality of the group-authored reflection on your planning and teaching; the honesty and thoughtfulness of your own self- and group-assessment; and my overall assessment of your individual contributions to the team's efforts and success.

M A I N * N E W S * L I N K S * R E S E R V E S

AMST/ENGL 296: American Identities, Spring 2006
Created: 2/2/06 9:52 am
Last modified: 2/24/06 2:46 pm
Webmaster: Bruce Simon, Associate Professor of English, SUNY Fredonia