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The Joy of Teaching

The Joy of Teaching: A Practical Guide for New College Instructors

Peter Filene
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    The Joy of Teaching
    Book Description:

    Gathering concepts and techniques borrowed from outstanding college professors,The Joy of Teachingprovides helpful guidance for new instructors developing and teaching their first college courses.Award-winning professor Peter Filene proposes that teaching should not be like a baseball game in which the instructor pitches ideas to students to see whether they hit or strike out. Ideally, he says, teaching should resemble a game of Frisbee in which the teacher invites students to catch ideas and pass them on.Rather than prescribe any single model for success, Filene lays out the advantages and disadvantages of various pedagogical strategies, inviting new teachers to make choices based on their own personalities, values, and goals. Filene tackles everything from syllabus writing and lecture planning to class discussions, grading, and teacher-student interactions outside the classroom. The book's down-to-earth, accessible style makes it appropriate for new teachers in all fields. Instructors in the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences will all welcome its invaluable tips for successful teaching and learning.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0515-9
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Ken Bain

    When I started teaching U.S. political history in college in the 1960s, I knew my subject well, but I knew little about how to help other people learn. Before the first class meeting, the chair of the department gave me a list of the students who had enrolled in the course, told me the room number where the class would meet, and handed me a copy of the departmentally adopted textbook. That’s the only help I received. No one gave me any advice on how to set objectives, prepare a syllabus, teach the class, or assess my students’ work. My...

  4. acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    Welcome to your first year of teaching. This book will serve, I hope, as a travel guide to accompany you through the opportunities and quandaries that you’ll experience as you launch your career. We will spend most of the time on the challenges that will occupy most ofyourtime: developing and teaching your courses. But we’ll also consider extracurricular matters that deal with how you relate to your students and colleagues.

    I won’t dictate “the right answers.” Not only do teachers vary in their goals, styles, and values, but they also work in diverse contexts, ranging from three-hundred-person courses...


    • 1 Understanding Yourself as a Teacher
      (pp. 7-12)

      When most novice (and not-so-novice) instructors start to plan a course, they focus with varying degrees of excitement and anxiety on the subject matter. But in doing so they are leapfrogging two crucial questions: “Why do you want to teach?” and “What kind of a teacher do you want to be?” These may seem to be an unduly personal detour en route to your syllabus. As thousands of studies have suggested, however, good teachers display five characteristics that depend less on scholarly expertise than on personal skills.

      Enthusiasmranks first on the list. Good teachers care about their subject with...

    • 2 Understanding Your Students
      (pp. 13-22)

      Teaching is an interactive process, whether it involves Pablo Casals and a student sitting knees to knees or a professor orating to 350 people. The size of a class matters. But that is only the most visible circumstance shaping the pedagogical relationship. A teacher also needs to take into account less visible and even invisible circumstances. In this chapter we will discuss six factors ranging from academic to economic.

      Consider first the academic expectations that your students bring to the classroom. What kind ofcampus cultureare you dealing with? Is this an intellectual environment? a “party school”? a commuter...

    • 3 Defining Your Aims and Outcomes
      (pp. 23-32)

      Now that you have reflected upon yourself and your students, it’s time to begin constructing the course. Your initial task is to define the two halves of the teaching/learning dialogue:aimsandoutcomes. On the one hand, you want to convey crucial aspects of your subject in lucid, interesting fashion. On the other hand, you want to change how your students think and feel because that is the sine qua non of learning. But what exactly do you mean by these two purposes, and how exactly will you accomplish them?

      In my experience, professors have difficulty focusing on outcomes. They...


    • 4 Constructing a Syllabus
      (pp. 35-46)

      Having defined the destination of your course, you’re ready to lay out the more specific “promises’’ that will take you and your students along the route. This chapter will help you construct a class-by-class calendar, including lectures, discussions, and reading and writing assignments— in sum, a “promising syllabus.”

      Most instructors who are designing a course—rookies as well as veterans—suffer from the obsession to “cover” everything. Behind this noble intention lurks the voice of the academic devil. In a survey of the English novel, for example, you can’t imagine leaving outTom Jones,Vanity Fair, andMiddlemarch. Then again,...

    • 5 Lecturing
      (pp. 47-55)

      If you eavesdrop on college classrooms, odds are that the voice you hear will be the professor’s. According to a 1987 study of undergraduate liberal arts programs at more than eighty universities, lecturing was the instructional method in 81 percent of social science courses, 89 percent of physical sciences and mathematics courses, and (astonishingly) 90 percent of philosophy courses.¹ Lecturing is the prevalent modus operandi for good reasons and for not-so-good ones.

      On the positive side, lectures work as effectively as other methods to deliver information and ideas. On the negative side, they work less effectively than discussion for promoting...

    • 6 Discussing
      (pp. 56-74)

      In your graduate program, you may have served as a teaching assistant and learned to facilitate discussions by small groups. What you probably haven’t done, however, is synchronize smallgroup discussions with other parts of a course. Ideally, discussions, lectures, readings, and writing assignments each play their complementary part in the symphony of learning. So you, the composer and then conductor, need to write the score for that chorus of voices.

      You can’t begin working out these logistics, though, before deciding where you want to go and why you want to go there. (As you may notice, we’re repeating the self-reflective...

    • 7 Broadening the Learning Environment
      (pp. 75-91)

      So far we have focused on four kinds of pedagogical activities:listen,read,talk, andwrite. These ingredients constitute the usual recipes for teaching and learning. Now let’s expand your repertoire even further. This chapter will sketch more adventurous ways in which your students can learn by working collaboratively and, in some cases, producing more than words on paper or in air. A list of verbs will give a hint of what’s to come: debate, elect, simulate, interview, perform, construct, exhibit.

      Some of these activities can be initiated with minimal preparation and completed in as few as ten minutes....

    • 8 Evaluating and Grading
      (pp. 92-112)

      Of course one shouldn’t hear them literally. They “got” more than an alphabet letter out of all those lectures, discussions, writing assignments, and other activities on which Professor Dominguez lavished so much effort. Still, this all-too-familiar student conversation carries a useful warning. Grades claim disproportionate attention. They are scores required by the dean, Phi Beta Kappa, graduate admissions committees, and other governing powers beyond your classroom. They compete with, and sometimes overshadow, the process of learning that is their raison d’être. This holds true not only for students but also for faculty. After a teacher has been reading sixty scribbled...


    • 9 Relating to Students
      (pp. 115-121)

      During his freshman year at the University of Texas at Austin, Willie Morris—newly arrived from rural Yazoo City, Mississippi—was invited to the apartment of a young graduate student and his wife.

      The walls of their apartment were lined with books, more books than I had ever seen before in a private dwelling—books everywhere and on everything. I was astonished; I tried to talk with those people, but I was unaccountably shy, and I kept looking at their books out of the corner of my eye, and wondering if I shouldsaysomething about them, or ask perhaps...

    • 10 Teaching and Not Perishing
      (pp. 122-131)

      It’s not the same as a robber shouting “your money or your life!” But among untenured faculty the warning to “publish or perish” arouses a comparable sense of dread. According to the standard formula, unless you produce a book or at least several articles in scholarly journals within six years, all your work and hopes for a career will be shot down. If that’s the prescription for success, one has to wonder how much

      effort a new instructor should put into teaching. Does it make sense to emulate your inspirational professor (as recommended in chapter 1) and maybe win an...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 132-134)

    How to conclude? I found this to be a surprisingly perplexing question. After considerable reflection, I understand why. Toclosethis book would violate one of the principles that it has been espousing. Teaching and learning should not “finish” or “terminate” at the end of a course or a year or a book about pedagogy. (Indeed, after you teach a lecture or discussion, I picture you scribbling notes to yourself, “Change this, keep that!” as you look ahead to teaching it again.)

    Not only that, if I were to “end the argument,” I would be contradicting an even more basic...

  10. notes
    (pp. 135-144)
  11. If You Want to Learn More: A Selected, Annotated Bibliography
    (pp. 145-156)
  12. Index
    (pp. 157-159)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 160-160)