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Teaching by Doing – Further thoughts

July 30, 2012

I’m going to do it this semester. I’ll adapt all my teaching plans accordingly, make my wikipedia project serve this larger goal, and blog the entire process from beginning to end.

My students and I will collaborate to write book-length resources for the general reader. I’m presently thinking of having them write critical companions to three meritorious but relatively little-known fantasy/sf novels: Meredith Ann Pierce’s The Darkangel, Stephen Donaldson’s The Mirror of Her Dreams, and Tanith Lee’s Don’t Bite the Sun. Three books, of course, for three different class sections. There’s very little critical writing about any of these books, so a general-purpose resource would be both useful and probably welcome to anyone writing on these books in the future–and the relative dearth of resources means they’ll really have to work to find meaningful resources. Real research problems. Real research. Real output at the end that a reader can use. Fairly obscure subject matter, to be sure–but so what? It’s still meaningful knowledge production rather than a tedious sham, and we shall be proud of it at the end of it.

So the first question is this: How to define the mission for the students. If this is a cognitive apprenticeship, they don’t get to pick the project; just as carpenter’s apprentices wouldn’t get to decide, “Let’s make a sailboat instead of a table,” my students will not either; instead, they will get to collaborate, learn, and share credit with me for the finished product. I think I’d like to start the class by having them reflect on makework vs. real work, read a bit about learning communities and cognitive apprenticeship, and then start planning how we’ll actually achieve a book-length project in a mere 15 weeks. Thoughts? Ideas?

 

 

 

 

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