To Discuss or not to Discuss?

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Quote from: sds1968 on February 20, 2013,  6:19:50 pm

Hi Everyone,

I have an assignment-specific question in need of some insight.

I teach survey history courses, and I assign document analysis assignments. Students read two scholarly articles, ID the thesis of each author and defend their choice with examples from primary sources.

My inclination, and current practice, is not to discuss the articles until after the assignment is due. My thinking is that if we go over the documents before the assignment I would just be giving students answers. I do, however, encourage them to email me with questions etc about the documents individually.

So, my question is to review or not review the articles before the assignment is dude.


Why don't you contextualize them in class, and then let the students do the work of interpretation?

You should discuss the lily and the vapor.

Disclaimer: I don't teach history. If this is a type of analysis that the students haven't done before (which is likely since it's a survey course) I would do as someone else suggested and have a few "practice" articles that you do discuss in class and have them submit a write-up afterwards and then give them the articles that they have to read on their own and submit the assignment WITHOUT discussing them (until afterwards). If you are at an "elite" or "intellectual" school, then you could skip the "practice" assignments/articles, but if not, you will probably get better results by modeling the process with them by discussing a few articles first.

I, too, use primary source assignments in survey classes; rather than discuss the intricacies of the documents ahead of time, I'll reference the documents in lecture where they fit in.  There are times, though, where I have specific discussion days designed to make students talk about the documents too--and I do that the day they are due.  It's fresh, but not giving away answers.

Incidentally, though, I've found it's worse than pulling teeth, unless I have an unusually engaged class.  They tend to stare at me.  I DO discuss supplemental books they write papers on with them though, before they are due.  I do most of the talking, but by the end of the class period they start to warm up.


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