Sunday, August 26, 2007

rethinking 120 before it happens

I'm still happy with the course I have planned for this semester, but I was just flipping through the McLuhan Casebook from the late 60s--four chapters from Understanding Media followed by many, many book reviews and other responses to the media of the 60s. It did make me think about my class and the lack of a single supplementary text to anchor the course. I like the idea of students choosing their own topics (or having others in class commission topics of interest to them), but I think one reason students sometimes struggle with fairly open assignments like that is that the assignment and the student lacks an anchor. A single text might provide that anchor.

I used Fargo Rock City by Klosterman in that way for a couple of years, and I have used White Like Me by Tim Wise. Both worked reasonably well, but not so well as to keep them in the rotation. So my weekend thoughts went this way:

1. Propose a topic for investigation / examination (research topic doesn't seem like the right term).
2. Identify a central text on that topic for review, and perhaps rhetorical analysis.
3. Research the topic more fully (work on secondary research skills); write a commentary that builds on review / analysis and secondary research skills.

Disadvantages: undermines some sense of community via common text. Creates a real challenge for new TAs--feeling comfortable responding to diverse topics and texts. I do need to keep my multiple audiences in mind.

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