So much depends upon November. The deepening chill, the afternoon darkness stretching into long nights, the scent of pumpkin spice wafting (over everything, especially if you find yourself in a Trader Joe’s), the sight of rain-flattened, brightly colored leaves on asphalt, the cornucopias and turkeys (or Tofurkies), the promise-threat of family, and the chance to celebrate that uniquely North American holiday—Thanksgiving.
One of the most important takeaways from my experience talking about Thanksgiving in the classroom from a Native Studies perspective is the importance of talking about Thanksgiving. You don’t have to be a humanities instructor to initiate a conversation with your students about this most American of holidays. Even in a math or chemistry classroom, you have to do deal with the scheduling disruptions of Thanksgiving week. Why not also use this as time to reach out engage your students in a conversation about the significance of T-day? And you don’t have to do it without resources.
Welcome back to a new term! As we get our collective feet back under us and find our rhythm, I would like to challenge each of us to think about new ways in which we can ensure our students are learning.
In our New Faculty Learning Community, we are reading the book, What the Best College Teachers Do, by Ken Bain. If you haven’t read this book, I highly encourage you to do so (our library has at least one copy in the Teaching Excellence stack). The second chapter is about how our teaching should change the way students think. Bain describes a study done in the 80’s by Halloun and Hestenes that sought to determine whether their teaching actually changed students’ long held beliefs about motion in a physics class. The results were astonishing; even the high-performing students continued to think about motion like Aristotle rather than like Newton. In essence, they interpreted what they learned about motion through the framework that they brought to the first day of class. The authors wrote, “students held firm to mistaken beliefs even when confronted with phenomena that contradicted those beliefs.” Continue reading