In this episode we go conceptual and talk about a new way Edward has devised to categorize courses into three distinct types. The first, Interpret-and-Explain is common in the humanities, business schools, and some advanced courses in the social sciences. The second, Explain-and-Predict is the predominant type in the sciences where theories, models, and methods are central. The third type, Plan-and-Create is the primary mode of many arts and engineering courses. We look back at our past episodes for good examples of each, and discuss when and why you might want to teach using a method that’s atypical for your discipline. At the end we go meta and try to fit our podcast into this ontology and ruminate on our goals for the podcast.
Walker White has one of the coolest jobs in higher ed. He directs Cornell’s Game Design Initiative, and teaches beginning and advanced game design classes in the computer science department. In this episode we go deep inside Walker’s introductory games course for programmers, writers, and artists. He tells us how he organizes his students in heterogeneous teams, gives them copious feedback, and helps each team build a brand new playable game by the end of the semester.
Stephanie Bower and John Murray teach writing at the University of Southern California, and have been co-teaching “Writing in the Community” for almost 10 years. Their students are matched with community groups where they write essays and research papers, and create short video documentaries about and with community members. The experience is powerful for all involved, and in our conversation John and Stephanie give us the behind the scenes perspective. This is a great episode for anyone who teaches writing or is interested in giving students extra motivation to work on their assignments.
Peter LePage from the Cornell Physics Department joins us on our extra special 50th episode to talk about active learning pedagogy. He shares his first teaching experiences, his introduction to physics education research, and why he believes students benefit from problem solving and discussion in class. We also talk about the Active Learning Inititive, a program Peter started at Cornell that was inspired by Carl Wieman’s Science Education Initiative. Both programs aim to change the culture of teaching in higher education by giving departments large grants to radically overhaul how they teach their undergraduate courses.
We break new ground in this episode as we talk to Dr. Anael Alston, the superintendent of schools in Hamilton, NY. He has a master’s and doctorate in education from Columbia, and has worked his way up to his current position, starting as a substitute teacher in the New York state system. Anael shares his inspirational journey and the many things he’s learned along the way about teaching at all levels.
In this episode we are joined by Steve Pond from the Cornell music department. Steve is an ethnomusicologist and among other things he studies jazz and the musics of the African diaspora. He plays drums with Cornell’s Brazilian music group Deixa Sambar, and he teaches wide range of courses from freshman writing seminars to graduate theory. His teaching style is highly improvisational. He prepares a rich set of topics and supporting materials for each class, but puts them together in a unique blend depending on his audience, mood, the questions that come up that particular day. During our conversation Steve shares many examples of how he mixes technical jargon, vernacular language, and profound ideas in ways that engage today’s students.
The vision: Four 2-year teaching postdocs working with faculty over five years to radically transform an entire undergraduate economics core curriculum with active learning pedagogy.