Favorite pedagogy books?
December 20, 2018 7:33 PM   Subscribe

Please hit me with your favorite pedagogy books (or articles) to read before my next semester of TAing! I'm interested in both theory (especially radical and progressive pedagogy) and praxis. I teach composition & rhetoric mostly to traditional college students, but I'm interested in any helpful books as long as they're not mostly applicable to young kids. (Tiny additional optional stocking-stuffer: any resources on course design / how to plan a semester? There's a standard course template that I've been sticking pretty closely to, but I'm thinking about how to go beyond it.)
posted by Jeanne to Education (10 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
My absolute favorite from teacher ed, applicable at any level, is Wiggins & McTighe's Understanding by Design. Talks about how to figure out the outcomes you want and design a course that produces those outcomes.
posted by yhlee at 7:43 PM on December 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Greg Ulmer's Applied Grammatology: Post(e)-Pedagogy from Jacques Derrida to Joseph Beuys was an amazing attempt to imagine new models for teaching composition, and it did yield practical exercises that you can find in the textbook he co-authored with Robert Scholes and Nancy Comley. In the 1st ed., at least, the not-so practical final assignment is to have students write something akin to Derrida's Glas, but there are many more conventional and still neat assignments in it worth considering along the way.

You might find similar inspiration in his subsequent work, most of which is organized around composition assignments. Like, I suspect you'd want to change the framing in most instances, but Internet Invention gathers up a ton of brief observations literally from Agamben through Wittgenstein and suggests ways to present them to composition students. It's not as directly usable as Text Book, because it's got a peculiar 90s-ish project-specific focus to it, but it's readable, and many writing exercises could be made practicable in another context.
posted by Wobbuffet at 9:50 PM on December 20, 2018

Not a book- but I really enjoy Cult of Pedagogy. I'm a high school teacher but there is stuff on this website for lots of different levels.
posted by freethefeet at 12:25 AM on December 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I really loved Without Him There is No Us, which is by Suki Kim. She's a journalist undercover as a Christian missionary under cover as an English teacher at an elite boys' high school in North Korea. Her discussion of teaching and having to navigate the requirements of her cover story with her politics is simply fascinating. She has an amazing knack for describing the love of one's students and the tensions between loving them and your subject but being required to teach them to fit into a hostile and unforgiving system.
posted by spunweb at 8:07 AM on December 21, 2018

More practically, Small Teaching is about all the little bits and bobs you can use day to day in your courses to build classroom community and do small assessment of student comprehension.
posted by spunweb at 8:09 AM on December 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend any of the works of Edward R. Tufte, especially "Envisioning Information".
posted by effluvia at 11:20 AM on December 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks is excellent.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:35 AM on December 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I can't recommend this book, as I haven't read it (I do own a copy however, haven't gotten around to it), but you might be interested in Notes on Ernesto Che Guevara's Ideas on Pedagogy. It probably hits the 'radical' checkbox, and will perhaps give you a different perspective that other texts on the subject will not.
posted by el io at 10:57 PM on December 21, 2018

Seconding Small Teaching for easy to implement techniques and Teaching to Transgress as a foundational text on critical pedagogy.

Something with very recent ideas about more radical teaching is Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel's new book, An Urgency of Teachers. Don't be fooled by mentions of digital pedagogy into thinking it's only about teaching online.
posted by Sing Fool Sing at 1:43 PM on December 24, 2018

Sorry for the novel: I wanted to motivate why it might (or might not) be worthwhile to read the two teacher-authors whom I recommend.

The two people who truly changed my life as an adult learner and TA / teacher / trainer / coach of adults did that through their websites. So I will give you links.

First some background = what credentials I have to comment: I am both a champion and a failure as both learner and teacher. For example, when I was little more than a toddler, in 1960's USA, I learned to read, seemingly effortlessly by being read aloud to a lot and by being surrounded by plenty of children's books (Dr. Seuss was my first fandom). And I immediately wanted my friends in the yard to join me in this magical adventure. So I taught them to read, too, and most of them learned at least something.

As a teenager I was finally told that my mother had had to listen to a couple of indignant neighbor mothers, who were not pleased that a child who was clearly younger than theirs was teaching -- it apparently was not enough that their children learned, those mothers would apparently have preferred them to learn in a predictable and socially acceptable "organized" way. I have had a number of similar experiences along my life: succeeding in teaching while a (sometimes loud) minority of people became offended that someone too young, from the wrong field or with not enough formal credentials managed to enable good learning results.

When I started school and was supposed to learn joined (cursive) writing, I could not. No matter how hard I tried. I also cannot develop much sense of time (unless I set several alarms, I will be late for everything, and I only cook "linear" recipes = those which allow for preparing all ingredients in advance). Moreover, I am way too clumsy for most sports -- but excel in swimming, for some unfathomable reason. Still today my handwriting is ugly, if we describe it charitably.

Much later, as a college TA in Europe, I successfully championed the result of a thesis project (not my own) -- a system for writing exams on computers, in computer classes with appropriate security -- to be adopted by our whole department. Because I wanted to be able to read each student's answers, so nobody would lose points because they had similar problems as I with their handwriting (some people who type well but have worse dysgraphia than mine, truly are unable to even print legibly with reasonable effort and within a practical time frame).


You may not -- yet -- be able to substantially change either of the problems (IME common in Western Europe, maybe also elsewhere) that these experienced college and vocational teachers point out in the quotes below. Their words may, however, help you to recognize those problems early, when they crop up in your environment. Hopefully you won't feel as alone as you otherwise could (I certainly did), knowing that others have observed similarly and that many of us have eventually found smaller and bigger ways to manage and counter these problems, first in our own teaching and later (IME usually by example, or by loaning out material when a colleague appears receptive) helping also others become more genuinely useful teachers.

Best of luck!

Excerpt 1 / Richard M. Felder: "College teaching may be the only skilled profession for which no preparation or training is provided or required. You get a Ph.D., join a faculty, they show you your office, and then tell you "By the way, you're teaching 205 next semester. See you later." The result is the consistent use of teaching techniques that have repeatedly been shown to be ineffective at promoting learning.

Many professors are surprised to learn that...
* There are well-defined instructional techniques that make teaching more effective.
* These techniques can be introduced slowly and methodically, without compromising coverage of the syllabus. They do not require large expenditures of money, time, and effort.
* Most importantly, the techniques have been validated by careful, documented, repeatable research. Their effectiveness is not simply a matter of opinion. They work!

This Web site offers guidance on what those techniques are and tips and resources for using them. If you have a specific aspect of teaching in mind, click on the link to "Education-related papers" on the left and then click on your topic if it is listed. Otherwise, just enjoy browsing."

Read more: Resources in Science and Engineering Education

Excerpt 2 / James S. Atherton: "I have principally taught on professional, rather than academic courses. This makes a considerable difference to the way in which the subject-matter is conceived and hence taught. Pedagogy (or even andragogy) is not simply a matter of technique, but exists in an intimate relationship with the epistemological status of the knowledge—academic or practical—which is being taught.

In planning for a programme, module or individual session, a major question is: “what is this being taught for?” In other words, “how is this to be used?”

“Today I stood in for S. to do a teaching observation of M... She works part-time at a College of Further Education, and she was teaching a group of nursery nurses coming to the end of their two-year non-graduate course, and she was, as she said, tidying up loose ends. Their syllabus required them to have studied team-working [... ]

At a technical level, M. is a good teacher: she tried to draw information and ideas out of the students …, but, since they had little experience to draw on, she could not get the “right” answers from them. […] At last, M. put up on the whiteboard the three essential components of good team-working ... I thought at first, that was interesting. Then I put myself in the position of the students, who were dutifully making notes, and thought, they have to remember these points for their exam: there is a lot more to studying in this area than I thought. Perhaps I ought to make a note of these points for my own future reference?

Then I “woke up”. I started my working life in management and organisational development: I have been involved in team-working for the past twenty years, working in teams myself, and conducting training and consultancy on it. There was nothing “wrong” with the three points on the board, but I had never conceptualised the issue to myself in that way, and I saw no particular advantage in doing so. They did not even represent a particular school of theory, which could be contrasted with other perspectives.

They seemed to represent the outcome of the text-book author’s search for three simple headings under which to organise his required thousand words on team-working. But for these students, this was now the definitive knowledge on the subject, to which their experience had to be subordinated ... As M. said afterwards, it was what they were expected to “know”..." from my journal

I keep using this excerpt: it must epitomise an important issue for me. The experience has certainly been repeated many times, if less vividly."

Read more: Apologia pro doctrina mea

NOTE! Some links on the Doceo site are broken, and at least one has been high-jacked for unrelated content.

Finally, browsing the Wikipedia page on pedagogy may give additional insight into how many different flavors of pedagogic theory / teaching philosophy there are. When I started as a college TA, until I looked into the history of pedagogy, I had great difficulties understanding why two lecturers, who both had studied some pedagogy, could often differ so much in their claims about learning and teaching that they almost quarreled and never seemed to quite understand each other. It turned out that neither of them had any deeper insight into that the kind of pedagogy that they had learned was only a subset of all pedagogic theory / philosophy: one had learned almost pure behaviorist pedagogy (which is not mentioned on Wikipedia's pedagogy page -- IMO a mistake, however simplistic Skinner's model of learning was), the other was a strong proponent of the Socratic method.




Hope you find at least some of this useful!
posted by AthenaErdmann at 3:21 AM on December 31, 2018

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