Our goal, in every lecture we teach, is to make my students stop and think. I urge them to embrace critical and independent thought, a kind of intellectual responsibility, by engaging deeply with texts and then respecting and analyzing their personal reactions to them. If you know who you are in relation to someone else’s ideas, then you’re invested in your society: you care about how people do things.
In classes, we try to use as many references as possible plus up to dated videos and streams which will help in deeply understanding my lecture goal. we want students to imagine the science and now how plants grow. With almost every text we teach, I urge students to write a short “response paper” before coming to class in which they pick out a particular theme or quotation for close analysis. What do you connect with in this reading? What do you find significant and why? we insist that they make an effort to consider when the text was written and try to place it within some sort of scientifically context. But I also make sure they feel free to speculate about its relevance to today’s world.
we believe in democratizing the classroom, so, in a seminar setting, I make it clear to students from the beginning that the onus is on them to lead discussions. we want them to go through the active process of making discoveries by comparing perspectives and disagreeing with each other rather than simply listening passively to the teacher’s interpretation of a given text. (I also tend to talk openly with my students about creating an atmosphere in which everyone contributes but no one dominates, about maintaining a spirit of both debate and civility.) we generally suggest that they come to class with outlines of key themes, a list of questions, and even references to specific pages. At the same time, though, in my own preparation for class, we always make extensive notes as to the essential points I’d like to see covered in our discussion, and I’ll consistently draw the discussion back to those points when we get sidetracked.
One of the key challenges in a scientific course, we think, is making it cohere as a whole, fitting the texts together, tracking themes across time and space. I do think it’s worthwhile to encourage students to ask big, interpretive questions throughout a given semester, to develop ways of weaving the strands of the course into some sort of web.