Monday, August 17, 2009

Realizations of mid-August

I am mostly moved into my office (save the one box of books that turned up in a totally strange place in the house). I have another week until my orientation starts, two weeks until I start teaching. 

Oh. Yikes. I start teaching in two weeks. At the moment I have a messy syllabus-shaped object instead of a proper syllabus. It is full of question marks and italics and proposed readings that I haven't quite settled on.

The course that concerns me is on women in the Middle Ages. I've taught it twice before, at a different school each time. It was originally heavily based on a couple of courses I had taken myself, although I have changed things around a bit each time.

This time I kept the two somewhat older collections of essays I've liked to use, but added a more recent one. I'd like to expose the students to newer as well as "classic" scholarship. I also want to do a better job of teaching them how to read scholarly articles. This is an "advanced topics" course for majors, so reading scholarly articles is a more than appropriate goal. Usually I make the mistake of assigning articles and assuming that students can read and get them, and then become frustrated when they have read but not gotten. I'm much better at teaching students to deal with primary sources in useful ways.

In this class one of their papers will be an assignment to analyze and critique a scholarly article. I am thinking it will be one that they choose, not already on the syllabus (partly because there is so much excellent stuff I'm having to leave off), although I will supply them with suggestions as necessary. I think I need to precede that with more exercises involving identifying arguments, homing in on clear or unclear points, and figuring out what evidence an author is using to support her argument.  Suggestions for useful exercises are welcome.


Notorious Ph.D. said...

My most helpful suggestion, if you want students to find their own articles, is to introduce them to the Feminae database -- but make sure they know that Feminae contains book reviews as well as articles, and that the two are not the same thing.

And by the way, I'd love to see the different iterations of your syllabi, when you get a chance.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Ooh! I MUST post another comment, for no other reason than that the word verification is "crodd", which is pretty much how I feel now, after ages of entering fiddly little edits.

BarbS said...

Teaching students to identify and critique arguments is always tough! What I usually do, generally in the second week, is to dissect an article with the class, using the whole period to do so. I make sure they've all read the article, then ask what they think the author's main point was (they usually don't know), then we walk through it: what the intro does to set up the argument, what kind of language to look for when finding the argument, etc. At some point during the class meeting *before* we do this, I give my "different ways of reading" spiel: we don't read a novel the way we read a math textbook, and we don't read a scholarly article the way we read a magazine, and here are some clues to follow for scholarly articles (like, what other scholars are mentioned, is there any special theory or school of thought discussed, etc.) It usually blows their minds, but makes the rest of the semester better for everyone.

clio's disciple said...

Notorious: Feminae is a must. I may take some time to demo it in class. Will sent you the syllabi when the latest one is done.

BarbS: I'm going to borrow that plan wholesale. Thanks!