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Deprivatizing The Classroom And Violating Collegiality

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

Message Number: 
201

Folks:

The excerpt below talks about a common problem, the lack of public

accountability of our teaching practices. Lee Shulman, of the Carnegie

Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching refers to the same issue when he

talks about teaching as a private activity and research as a public

activity.

The excerpt is from the book, CLASS ISSUES: PEDAGOGY, CULTURAL STUDIES, AND THE PUBLIC SPHERE, edited by Amitava Kuman. It appears on page 171 of

Chapter 11, Pedagogy and Public Accountability, by Ronald Strickland. The

book is published by the New York University Press, copyright 1997 by New

York University, reprinted with permission.

Regards,

Rick Reis

reis@stanford.edu

UP NEXT: Teaching the Three"'M's" in the New Millennium: Multi-tasking,

Materialistics, and Mind Management

Tomorrow's Teaching

 

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DEPRIVATIZING THE CLASSROOM AND VIOLATING COLLEGIALITY

Ronald Stricklan

 

Strategies to make our professional practices more directly accountable

often meet resistance because they violate the unspoken codes of

collegiality that prevent teachers from engaging each other, and their

students, in public dialogue and debate. For example, I regularly teach a

doctoral seminar in literary theory and pedagogy in which I assign students

to write an essay on the pedagogy of a particular literature course they

have taken or observed, developing a critique of the relationship between

the teacher's theoretical orientation and his or her classroom practices. A

few weeks in advance I send a note around to my colleagues saying that I

will be making the assignment and that some students may be contacting them

for interviews or asking for materials from their courses, and thanking

them in advance for their cooperation. When I introduce the assignment to

students, I describe it as an opportunity for them to closely analyze the

work of a veteran teacher, and I suggest that they use the assignment as an

occasion to talk about pedagogy and theory with someone whose teaching

they've particularly admired.

Inevitably, however, some students and some of my colleagues are made very

uncomfortable by this assignment. Some students say they feel uncomfortable

because they are being put in the position of judging their teachers

publicly (all of the students' papers in my courses are "Published" on a

list serv list and archived on a web page, and the students discuss the

papers in the seminar). I see the assignment as an opportunity for teachers

to have a careful and thorough critique of their teaching-a process from

which it might be possible to identify areas of particular strengths to

build on as well as weaknesses to focus on for improvement. But some

colleagues react with suspicion, and, occasionally, with hostility when

approached by the students. Some teachers haven't thought much about the

theoretical underpinnings of their teaching practices, and don't like to be

held accountable in this way. The assumption that the classroom is each

teacher's private space is so strong that my assignment is sometimes seen

as an invasion of privacy. Though I suppose this should not be surprising,

I think it is really quite remarkable.