Cross-class Time

I’m wondering whether the new 4-credit system might allow us to run activities that usefully cross between our different offerings, sometimes even across levels of course.

In creative writing, this might take the form of a journal club, a 20-30 minute meeting where students are using our library of journals to talk about different aesthetic styles they’re finding.

In literature, this might take the form of approaches organized by critical perspectives (an eco-crit approach to non-shared texts) or skills-based work (citation has been coming up a lot recently).

Exact ideas would depend on how open we want this to be to multiple classes: something designed with two specific Major Authors classes in mind, for example, would look different from a Reader-and-Text-wide coming together.

Citation: Degrees of Quotation (Joseph Bizup)

Following on ideas from Jess, Paul, Graham, and Beth in reaction to our Assessment pages, I’ve been returning to two ideas from Joe Bizup, Director of the Writing Program and Associate Professor in English at Boston University. These might be useful for a future metagogy session.

Firstly, he offers a way to think beyond primary/secondary/tertiary sources (literary texts, criticism, reference works) that accounts for the different ways we might read a text for different purposes: Foucault’s History of Sexuality could be a primary or secondary source, depending on the argument we’re trying to make. For Bizup, the acronym BEAM helps: Background, Evidence, Argument, Method. His essay explores ways writers can think about the purposes behind their use of sources, rather than thinking of sources as intrinsically primary/secondary/tertiary etc.

Secondly, his 1-page handout on ‘Degrees of Quotation’ displays the ways we might attribute authority – and so change the ways we claim authority when reacting to ideas in a text. He takes students through block quotes to paraphrase, and everything in between. See an exercise based on it here. Link to download handout: here.

Both these resources are up in the Shared Texts and Shared Links section of the Wiki (English Department).

The Porous Classroom

I find myself thinking about how the flexible pedagogy of a 200-minute, 4-credit class might offer opportunities beyond the flipped classroom or the Freirean teacher-student, both things we can achieve anyway with oral presentations and other measures that allow our students to claim expert status. Similarly, online activity – blogs, wikis, e-seminars – might form part of any course. What makes our 200-minutes different?

I’m trying to forge (forage?) an answer by thinking of ways that 200-minute class might be experienced as porous. Perhaps it’s just that everyone in Newton has been teaching with their doors open in this heat; scraps of economic theory, political science, and Barthesian structuralism escaping into the corridors and out to campus.

Practically, for me, this means finding ways to not only create the expectation that conversations – rigorous, intellectual conversations – will continue beyond our meetings (that’s a sine qua non of a literature or creative writing class, no?); it means creating structures that allow such conversations to happen, whether physical or virtual. And for them to happen, they must somehow be registered within the classroom space (in classrooms and beyond).

In wrestling with how to explain to students that their class schedule is different from, I’ve found myself explaining why collaborative annotated texts, letters written from one poet to another, and collectively-authored blogs should form part of the 200-minutes we spend together, if not all together (or altogether). And I’m hoping that these structures will lead to the students developing others, too: their own blogs, group work on literary texts as a way to study, meetings over coffee about poems and poets. I then have to find a way to incorporate those developments in the classroom: the world escaping inside.

That’s the theory, at least! Looking forward to hearing if others have similar intentions/experiences, and to hearing about other uses of time – around the corridors I’ve picked up on various ideas of flexible work (different activities each day) and focussed student attention that I’m keen to hear about and try out.