Meira Levinson, Professor of Education, develops case studies about difficult questions in educational ethics—for example, grade inflation, charter schools, and policies that disproportionately impact low-income students of color—for A203 Educational Justice students to debate and discuss the ethical dimensions of educational practice and policy.
The benefits: In addition to in-depth content analysis, case discussions illuminate different views among students who may have expected they were in like-minded company. According to Levinson, this is an important goal for instructors, as we tend to assume that others think the same as we do: “Students learn that is not true. We are socialized culturally to avoid difficult conversations—‘don’t talk about religion, sex, or politics at a dinner party’—and not often provided opportunities to substantively engage with one another." Read more about Difficult topics: Seeking and considering alternative viewpoints in the classroom
Katherine K. Merseth, Senior Lecturer on Education,creates a culture of reciprocity in her classroom where students and instructors are expected to both teach and learn. “The two words are often interchanged because they are inextricably linked – learners need teachers, and teachers need learners.” She establishes this in part by requiring attendance and learning students’ names.
The benefits: Though seemingly contradictory,shared teaching and learning responsibility enhances instructor influence. In General Education course “Dilemmas of Equity and Excellence in American K-12 Education” (see video trailer), Merseth encourages students to lead the discussion, promoting new perspective and understanding. “When I teach, I get back more than I put out because I acknowledge this relationship between teachers and learners. I teach, basically, because I love to learn.” Read more about Teacher/learner dependency: A classroom culture of reciprocity
Karen Brennan, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, designs her syllabus for T550: Designing for Learning by Creating to not only communicate the plan for the course, but to introduce students to the course culture.
The benefits: Her use of quotations, images, and color appeals to the various ways that we engage with text, and gives students (many of them future instructors themselves) a glimpse of their upcoming course experience. Drawing on other forms of expression expands the possibilities for communicating the aspirations and intentions for the course. Read more about Communicating course culture: Beyond the syllabus