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Group Pedagogical Project

What It Is

Each of the groups we created during the first class meeting will be responsible for teaching a given mode of literary criticism or literary theory to the rest of the class for roughly 45 minutes on Wednesday of the week devoted to that interpretive strategy/theoretical concept. Each group is responsible for helping the rest of the class better understand the interpretive strategy/theoretical concept and for guiding the class through a consideration of its value and stakes.

By the second Friday after the conclusion of your teaching segment, your team must turn in a 500-1000-word group-authored reflection on the experience of planning and teaching about your chosen interpretive strategy. In this group-authored essay, you should describe the planning your group did, explain and justify your original lesson plan, comment on what actually happened in the class, and comment on whether and how you'd rethink any aspect of the pedagogical 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 to class.

As well, each group member must also email me a 250-500-word self- and group-assessment of your own contributions to the group's successes and failures, of how well the group 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.

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 45 minutes (at least) of class time you'll be running, designing questions and activities, and trying to anticipate and to answer your peers' questions. 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 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.

To put all this another way, let me remind you of the main page's statement of course goals, "ENGL 345 is designed to help students develop (1) an awareness of their own acts of interpretation in reading and (2) an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to interpretation and criticism.... Students will participate in a team pedagogical project in order to reach goal 2." By designing activities to help your peers on both goals, your group itself will advance both goals, but the idea of this project is that by teaching you will advance particularly on goal 2, in the sense that you will be discussing the readings among yourselves to determine key concepts, methodologies, questions, and passages that help you come to a group consensus (or at least identify clearly areas of dissensus!) on the value and stakes of that mode of interpretation, criticism, or theory. Furthermore, by reflecting on the experience of teaching, both in a group-authored essay and an individual email, you will also consider the relation between interpretation, criticism, theory, and pedagogy.

How To

Each team's main goals are to 1) help its classmates understand the concepts and arguments for the interpretive strategy or theoretical movement in general and the variations on it and the key arguments of the critics/theorists who propose them in particular, and 2) to help its classmates consider the strengths and weaknesses, the pros and cons, the value/utility, and the stakes of the general interpretive strategy or theoretical movement and its particular variations. Ultimately it is up to your group 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 "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 teaching 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 group 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 group meets with me, you all should have a good sense of your goals for the class meeting the following Wednesday, a fairly good sense of what methods you want to use to reach those goals, and 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 Wednesday your group is scheduled for, so be sure to meet early as a group and make use of email to exchange ideas and plans before that.

In essence, I don't want to limit the creativity of your group'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 teaching, the way the people in your group interact with each other, and the process by which you narrow down the many possible comparisons/contrasts between the two novels down to your top one or two, 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 group's 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 group'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

ENGL 345: Critical Reading, Fall 2005
Created: 9/7/05 6:54 pm
Last modified: 9/7/05 6:54 pm
For earlier versions of this course, please go to the Spring 2004, Spring 2002, or Fall 2001 web sites.
Webmaster: Bruce Simon, Associate Professor of English, SUNY Fredonia