Must-read: Harry Brighouse: “Get your students to know each other and make them write for each other”

Must-Read: Harry Brighouse: Get your students to know each other and make them write for each other: “A brief conversation with 2 students crystallized for me why two things I have been doing in my classes for a while work well…

…and I want to recommend them to other teachers; and also make a recommendation for students…. R: ‘MA might come to class on Wednesday. I mean, it’s like she’s in the class, so she might as well just come along’. Me: ‘What do you mean?’ M: ‘Well, we all just argue about class in our apartment for half the week, and she can’t really avoid it’. R: ‘Yes, as soon as the memos start coming in on Sunday, we start reading them to see what everyone says’. M: ‘We always look to see what S [a very poised, provocative, freshman] says, because at least one of us will disagree with her’. R: ‘And even if M and I agree, G always disagrees with us. Our apartment is just full of argument from Sunday through Wednesday’

So what are the two things I do?… Requiring students in my smaller class to post several memos a semester online. I’ve scaled it up lately…. The benefits for me are huge: first, everyone has done the reading, and second, I know what they do, and do not, understand…. The fact that they have done the reading transforms class discussion…. 2.The other thing I have started doing in my small classes is requiring the students to introduce themselves over and over again. Probably the first 6 or 7 class meetings in a row I make them do this, and then again occasionally, later…. The more important effect, that I have become increasingly deliberate, and explicit, about, is that they learn one another’s names…. The idea behind getting them to know each other’s names is to induce them to spend more time talking to one another outside of class…. The memos give them something to talk about…

January 17, 2016


Brad DeLong
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