Difficult topics: Seeking and considering alternative viewpoints in the classroom

Meira LevinsonMeira 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.

Teacher/learner dependency: A classroom culture of reciprocity

Kay Merseth

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.”

Communicating course culture: Beyond the syllabus

Karen Brennan

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.