Sunday, November 12, 2006

How to teach, in 100 pages or less

Next semester I'll be teaching English 8010, Theory and Practice of College Composition, the required course for new graduate teaching assistants. We offer two sections each year, one in the fall for new PhD students, and one in the spring for MA students. (Our MA students work in the Writing Lab for their first year and teach in their second year.)

I'm thinking about using a kind of book I've never used before in this class (or in the similar class I taught at SIU)--a general book about how to teach (in college). There seems to be a lot of anxiety surrounding the basic idea of teaching--which is, no doubt understandable. That is, although I think of the class as an introduction to thinking about writing practices in order to be able to teach writing practices, the students are often thinking of the class as a chance to figure out what to do, on a very general level, when they walk into the classroom for the first time.

I understand that anxiety. So I'm thinking of assigning a book that's something like "good practices in the college classroom." This one, Successful Beginnings for College Teaching , gets high marks at Amazon, so I ordered a copy. It's ok. I mean, some of it is stuff I really wouldn't do, like giving students a guide to good study habits. There's a good bit of stuff about testing and lecturing, which doesn't really apply to composition teaching. But it does include some useful bits about setting up a comfortable climate for learning and such.

I don't know. Anyone else ever used a book (for yourself or for a class) like this?


Collin said...

At SU, they gave us all copies of McKeachie, which seems to be popular, if 12 editions mean anything...I only ever skimmed it, since I'd already been teaching for some time, but it seemed solid.

Getting the latest edition is expensive, but some of the older eds are available at Amazon for cheap, I think...


Daniel said...

There is one called the Joy of Teaching, by Peter Filene. I haven't read the book, but I know it's short and, I think, interdisciplinary.

Britty said...

As a graduate student who has been through two similar classes (during my MA and currently as I start my PhD), I have to say pick your book wisely (which I'm sure you know). For my MA I think we used _Rhetoric for Writing Teachers_ which was okay, but discussions were so much more beneficial than the readings. For my PhD we're using a course packet. From my experience I think the best way to go is the course packet so you can include readings from multiple books that will be helpful. The course pack we're using has readings that we won't even get to though which is frustrating.

Aside from being a good mix, the course pack is usually cheaper than a text book which is great, but I've never found a used course pack which is a downfall.

I also bought Nuts & Bolts: A Practical Guide to Teaching College Composition before I started teaching because I was so apprehensive. The book has some helpful chapters, and actually the course pack I have this semester has a chapter from the book, but I don't think it would work well as a course text. It might be a "suggested" reading though.

Nels said...

I would use What the Best College Teachers Do. I read it when it came out, which was after I got the tenure-track job here, and it really did change a few things for me.

marcia said...

I have a copy of Bain's text if you'd like to borrow it.

What about Richard Light's Making the Most of College: Students Speak their Minds. I haven't read it, but I have a general impression (which could be way off base) that it might approach the subject, generally speaking, from the students' perspective, which could be useful. I think MT has a copy of it.

Donna said...

Thanks for the suggestions, all. I actually own a copy of McKeachie, so I should take a better look at it. And, yes, Marcia, I *would* like to borrow the Bain book--thanks!

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