Friday, May 06, 2016

MetroCITI adieu


Today was the last session of the MetroCITI pedagogy workshop I've been participating in all year - we started last July! In that time, the ten participants - from many different schools and teaching many different subjects) have gotten to know each other well. Over the course of ten months, one of us had a baby, another has one on the way, another got married. We also workshopped, carried out and debriefed about a classroom project and a faculty development project for each of us.

Excellent fun! Today we reflected a little on why it was such a special and fruitful experience. Some veterans of the program had told us, a third of the way in, to relish discussions about pedagogy which wouldn't become mired in the structures and dysfunctions of a particular institution, or in the particular foci of a given discipline. It's also a space without power dynamics and competition, where what unites us is a shared commitment to inquiry. Returning together today to the seminar's central idea that learning involves the coming together of students' prior knowledge and what we were calling subject matter knowledge, something else became clear.

The power of our discussions has come also from the fact that each of us is a non-specialist (to put it mildly) in the others' fields. As each described key subject matter ideas they were trying to convey to students, the rest of us were at once in the role of pedagogues and students. This might be the case for most pedagogy discussions, and should happen in the many settings where interdisciplinary exploration happens (I have sought it out betimes by taking classes in fields I don't know), but it is in fact a rare and precious thing. We were all grateful!

On the wall outside our classroom were two diagrammings of a famous line from James Clerk Maxwell: Metaphysical doctrine is not of much use in a world like this, in which the same antecedents never again concur and nothing ever happens twice. But pedagogical networks...!

PS Here'a a picture of the lot of us, bidding farewell at a Greek restaurant fittingly called Symposium. From right: a professor of
chemistry, TC grad student, sociology, convener, writing, economics, TC grad students, writing, chemistry, physics, government, history, me.

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