What should a syllabus consist of?

What should a syllabus consist of? One answer, which we are all familiar with, is that it should provide information about the course in a summary form that can fit in 3 to 5 pages. Why this length? Answer: Because students do not read a longer syllabus. But let us think more about this convention of limited-length syllabi. Read more of this post

Teaching lost voices to speak

In an activity Peter Elbow led in a 1998 workshop each participant was asked to list the different voices that were important to us, then choose one that we didn’t often use and write in that voice about whatever seemed pertinent. After moving to a private space, we had to practice a phrase in that voice. Finally, we came back together to discuss the experience of exploring “the range of voices that could be said to be part of us or available to us.”

In John Weimer’s book Back Talk she develops conversations between herself (her dominant self), the writer (Constance Fenimore Woolson) who was the subject of her research, and other “lost selves” that she identifies from dreams and reflections on her then new state of being disabled and in pain – perhaps a permanent state, but at best needing a slow period of unsteady recovery.

A possible combination of Elbow and Weimer would be to identify one’s different voices, have the under-expressed one speak uninterrupted, setting the agenda or agendas, then continue in conversation. The conversation would always be open to finding further voices, say through reflections on dreams. What would the conversation be about? Possible answer: remembering the past with a view to understanding – re-evaluating – why the under-expressed voice had got lost or buried, where, in the spirit of narrative therapy and community work, the reevaluation would center on re-membering, that is, “rich description of the ways in which… connection[s with others] shaped… the person’s sense of who they are and what their life is about” (White, workshop notes).

Stay tuned for reports on attempts to put this into practice.

Living under constraints, less emphasis on death and dying

To speak or think of “dying” is to keep the focus on a seriously ill person being dead in the foreseeable future. Looking ahead to the person soon being dead shapes what others—the caregivers (or other visitors)—do (unless we want to rely on there being life after death). A different view and different practice follows once we insert the category living under constraints into the picture and separate this from looking ahead to a time when the person cared for is dead. Read more of this post

Counterfactuals and critical thinking

Most of us are aware of the flaming and intolerant contributions made to online comment boards. In light of this, I designed for a course on critical thinking an activity to explore how to foster learning from internet-hosted disputes. The preparatory steps, intended to be straightforward, took all the time and even then warrant deeper thinking. These steps involved identifying counterfactuals. Below is my draft revision of the rationale for these steps, followed by some examples. Read more of this post

Critical Thinking, the stories in a new course

This 53-minute video describes a proposal for a new graduate-level course on Critical Thinking (based on the rethinking done during the Fall 2015 semester teaching an exploratory version of such a course).

What is a “platform”?

This 18-minute recording delves further into the concept of a platform as mentioned in a recent blogpost on developing as a critical thinker, http://wp.me/p1gwfa-Ik

Exposing lines of questioning but not following some of them

This 13-minute video first presents the KAQ framework, which “helps you organize your thinking and research keeping an eye on actions, that is, what you might do or propose or plan on the basis of the results,” and then explores some of its implications with regard to motivation not to inquire and think critically.


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