Iain Thomson interview

Prof. Thompson articulates a lot of my views on the goals of teaching than I can. The interview does make me wonder if it is as novel as it is treated to teach Intro as a major figure course?



~ by Michael L. Thomas on October 12, 2010.

3 Responses to “Iain Thomson interview”

  1. Thanks! By the way, I hope it isn’t as rare elsewhere as it has become, for some reason I don’t fully understand, at my own university. Perhaps part of the explanation is that Intro teachers seem to like to assign those edited “Intro” volumes, which tend to proceed topically? Personally, I much prefer to assign several individual books, but I do feel the pressure when students complain about the cost…

    • Thanks for your comment. As a student and TA my experience has been that intro courses are taught topically both as a way of keeping costs low and, I think, with the idea that a topics focus is more suited to studnet interest. My background in liberal arts tells me that the kind of intellectual conversdation you mention is an equally profitable, if not superior method. The direct engagment with seminal texts is more likely to produce the type of events you describe. Thus, I’ve gravatated toward this style of course in my early teaaching career.

      I do have to say that it makes it a bit harder on the side of the instructor I can really only delve so far into new ways I view the text (though these do serve as helpful moments to try and energize class discussion). The majority of my time is spent trying to find a way to motivate them towards reading more “deeply” into the text. Do you find that is more beneficial to work from your students’ responses to the text or to try and guide them in a more structured way? I assume this changes depending on what you’re reading, but any insight would be helpful.

  2. That’s definitely a problem. In my huge Intro classes, I’ve sometimes resorted, rather unhappily, to the paternalism of quizzes in order to encourage them to read and attend, since I find that when they actually come to class many of them learn to love it, who wouldn’t otherwise. But the cost is that I end up with some ineliminable portion of students who don’t want to be there, and that still bothers me. But I do classic “explication” of the text with a twist, continually explaining how these seemingly “old” books are relevant to their lives, how they’ve shaped the unnoticed parameters through which they see the world, how their ideas are similar to (or different from) that movie, TV show, or contemporary event, etc. That kind of thing helps keep their interest and attention, which is ever harder as their urge to be on-line consumes them. (Of course, I do a lot of challenging of the technological understanding of being, too, so I address, and try to underline, some of their resistance obliquely.)

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