Course Meeting Times
Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session
The full syllabus contains, in a single document, a detailed description of each of the class sessions, the reading and writing assignments and the class notes. (PDF)
"Everything that is said, is said by someone." (H. Maturana)
"Home is where one starts from."
(T.S. Eliot, "Four Quartets")
"Home": Broadly speaking, the "place" (in space/time) to which we have come in the course of the process of living our lives and having our own experiences. It is where we start from in approaching any subject. It is further identifiable - in visuospatial metaphor — with the particular personal and social "point-of-view" perspective or vantage point that we presently call our own.
Needless to add: the mental (cognitive, affective), and behavioral (postural/expressive/verbal/gestural etc.) particulars of our perspectives condition and constrain the scope and penetrativeness of our perceptions in ways that are, in turn, conditioned and constrained by the particulars of our own personal backgrounds and social experiences.
(Note how intimately and recurrently, perspectives and perceptions are interrelated.)
It follows that the particular attitudes (thoughts and feelings; mental sets) that each of us has brought with us into this room this evening are bound to influence our perceptions of what is going on here and our behavior in response... and so on and so forth, in recurrent cycles...
Now, based on your knowledge of the "MIT system" and applicable nomenclature, please
- "unpack" the foregoing subject description
- reflect, insofar as you can at this point of entry, on your own inwardly experienced thoughts and feelings about the present situation. For example: with which particular constellation of attitudes have you come? And how might your present attitudes be related to your present and future behavior in this class? Might your attitudes be expected to influence (for example) the "seriousness" with which you are ready, willing and able to approach the subject before us?
- share with others your understanding of the stipulated "workload". Try to make explicit your expectations (hopes, fears) regarding the average amount of time per week to be spent working on it and say something about the general quality of individual and collective effort that you expect yourself and others to be putting into it during the next few months.
Conduct and Administration of Subject
Everyone enrolled in this class and hoping/expecting to receive a first-quality final grade (i.e., an A) should expect to devote a modicum of 12 hours per week of first quality time/effort (participation/observation) to the collaborative learning process that lies at the heart of our approach to the subject.
Over the years, 9.68 has evolved into a 12 unit elective subject requiring of participants a nominal average of 8 hours of solo weekly time and effort completing stated reading and viewing and writing assignments (e.g. "reaction papers") and other exercises. In addition, we all meet here weekly as a class and everyone meets separately — for two hours weekly at a time and place tba — with a study group whose membership has been randomly assigned and whose task it is to make the best, most appropriate, and most constructive possible contribution to the overall organization and development of the 9.68_09 into a collaborative learning system of the highest possible educational quality and of the greatest possible personal value to those who comprise it.
In this class, insofar as it resembles it predecessors, your learning experience is going to be something much more than and different from involvement in a mere spectator sport. Your active participation in and observation of the organization and development of the collaborative learning system is required in both the formation and evaluation of the collaborative learning process that serves as a key element in our main method of procedure. Ultimately, the quality of your learning experience in this class will be decisively determined by — and play a role in determining — the quality of everyone else's. For starters, anyone sincerely aspiring to come away from this semester—long learning experience not only with a quality final grade but also with a credible, trustworthy and useful understanding of nature and scope of the subject before us should be ready, willing and able to put the stipulated modicum of weekly time and effort into the 9.68 learning process, for the next 13 weeks.
Final grades will vary and be commensurable with the quality and timeliness and regularity of that effort. Regular and faithful attendance, punctuality, attentiveness, honesty, sincerity, as well as, frequent, timely and concise formative evaluation (preferably constructive and to the point) are also keys to success. Tapping into the relevant information and framing feedback in an efficacious way is not a completely straightforward process. The scope and acuity of our perspectives — like the incisiveness and comprehensiveness of our descriptions of our lived experiences — are ultimately limited by the multifariously diverse and inescapable partiality of our own particular personal and social experiences.
What knowledge and skills are you hoping and expecting to be able to take away with you from this class?
What about the amount and quality of time/effort that you are ready, willing and able to put into it?
What final grade are you hoping and expecting to get out of it? Adjust the quality of your performance accordingly.
Did you satisfactorily answer the previous questions in your Benchmark paper?
If not, please do so now.
We like to think of ourselves — together with you — as comprising so many different members of an annually recurring, constantly evolving, semester-long, collaborative learning system. We have benefitted greatly from the opportunity to work on the development of this subject over many years with many different cohorts of MIT undergraduates. Each year we endeavor together to organize ourselves in ways that enable us to become — within definite conceptual and material limits — a scientifically credible, ethically appropriate and pedagogically effective group of more or less serious students of the subject(s) before us.
Our experience teaches us that it is extremely important for us to be as clear and concise and as open as possible in communicating with each other and with you, our students, regarding what we see as key substantive and procedural issues before us.
We encourage you to do the same. This means making serious and sustained efforts to provide the learning process as a whole with pertinent and timely inputs and feedbacks. Serious human inquiry — in order to be credible, trustworthy and useful — needs to proceed in a way that values honesty, attentiveness, constructive criticism, conciseness, coherence and clarity of communication.
In addressing 9.68-related emails to each other, within or between study groups, please feel free to cc. group members and classmates and us as appropriate.
You are encouraged to be yourself as well as being a serious student of the subject before us. Issues will arise about which you will feel strongly. Feel free to voice your opinions regarding substantive or procedural issues directly, to each other and to us either publicly (if appropriate), in study group, in class, or privately during office hours, by chance or appointment. Please do not be surprised if we suggest that the issues you are raising really deserve to be considered by the entire class.
Attendance and Participation
As already noted, collaborative learning is not a spectator sport. Full, timely and complete attendance at and conscientious participation by everyone in all regularly scheduled 9.68 activities is expected.
Consider your Attitudes
Beginnings are important. How are you feeling at the point of entry? Here is some good advice to would-be learners, from Alexander Bain and John Stuart Mill:
"Take care to launch yourself with as strong and decided an initiative as possible."
"Seize the very first possible opportunity to act on every constructive resolution you make, follow every emotional prompting you may experience in the direction of the habits you aspire to gain."
"Keep the faculty of effort alive in you by a little gratuitous exercise every day."
"Pedagogical soundness lies in teachers learning to connect matters to be newly learned with the sort of material with which the pupils' minds are likely to be already spontaneously engaged."
Please examine - re-evaluate and adjust as need be - your customary "default assumptions" about what is going to be happening here.
In order for you to be able to work together with each other and with us within stipulated time/effort limits toward the attainment of the hopefully common and explicitly stated subject-related objectives, we need to agree on some guidelines.
Study group formation is a prototypical instance of a process that can be found (mutatis mutandis) in the organization and development of myriad other human social systems.
As already noted, beginnings are important. You should take some time at the outset to consider the suitability of the "social architecture" of the environment in which you are intending to meet. Get comfortable in your meeting place and start becoming suitably acquainted with each other.
If, as seems likely, this line of inquiry initially leads you to recite the usual facts in the locally time-honored way: (e.g. with clichés relating to past or present MIT courses of study, MIT living groups, MIT classes, etc.) that's ok. But please try not to stop there. Once you've gotten that altogether commonplace part of your introductions out of the way, what else do you have to say to each other? What is special or unusual about you? Who are you? Where are you coming from? Where are you heading? Why are you taking this class? What do you make of it thus far?
9.68 is what you all have in common here, and all of you have just completed the benchmark questionnaire and been through the first class session. The instructors claim to be trying to take a somewhat unorthodox pedagogical approach (aka "collaborative learning"). What do you think about that? This would be a really good time to talk together with your group members and classmates about what you are all getting yourselves in for and how you are hoping and expecting to deal with the demand characteristics of the situation. What are your expectations and default assumptions now — has anything changed in regard to your hopes and fears (if any) — concerning the likely developmental trajectory of the 9.68 collaborative learning system and your own involvement in it?
Of course, no two human systems (no two people, families, groups, 9.68 classes, etc. etc.) become organized and develop in exactly the same way. Nevertheless, we do know and can say a few things with some confidence about the process.
Generally speaking, the organization and development of all human social systems is comprehensible as following a characteristic trajectory from beginning to end. Starting out with random assignments — the study group development process as a whole is already underway. We are participating in and observing the organization and development of a process which, from within, is discernible as a prototypical instance of a human system life cycle, with a particular trajectory traversing an ordered sequence of more or less fixed and invariant stages or phases; phases analogous to those of conception, gestation, birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, maturity, old age, and death.
By an hypothesis that you are invited to critically evaluate, parallels in the developmental stages or phases of individual and group systems development are discernible and the demand characteristics of each is marked by the imperative of confronting and endeavoring to resolve certain "crises" (e.g. Approach/Avoidance Conflict, Basic Trust/Basic Mistrust, Power and Control, Autonomy/Interdependence; competition/collaboration; Generativity or Stagnation).
Thus all classroom learning systems — including this collaborative model — are comprehensible as conceptually and materially complex, composite unities having a beginning, a middle and an end, and operating in accordance with the demand characteristics of a particular organizational and developmental model. (See: "Developmental Schemes" handout.
How are you doing in this class? (No, it is not too early to be asking this question. It should be asked and answered frequently throughout the term.) The concept of formative evaluation is applicable to any goal-oriented activity. What is going well? What needs improvement?
We expect you to participate fully in all stages and aspects of the observation/evaluation process. The timesheet (see below) is intended to provide a first step in the process of monitoring the amount of time, and the quality of the effort per week that you put into making the collaborative learning system work as it is intended to.
The workload is not meant to be light weight. The catalog description sets out the terms of the contract implicit in the mere fact of our participation here. In order for the class to succeed in its objectives, everyone involved needs to put in a good faith modicum of time and effort. The class as a whole will succeed if everyone puts into it, on the average, 12 hours per week of high quality time and effort. Let us reiterate the point for emphasis: experience teaches us that success in creating a workable collaborative learning system depends on the readiness, willingness and ability of everyone involved to make a genuine good-faith effort to devote the stipulated modicum of time and effort to the process.
Each element of the curriculum is designed to be approached in a particular way — with everyone encountering each activity in the same sequential order. Insofar as possible, please do the indicated assignments/activities in the order listed.
The MFA Field Trip
One of our key learning activities is going together on a Field Trip to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA). The Field Trip is a key 9.68 activity. All students are expected to participate and it is important that everyone does so on the same occasion.
The completion of weekly assignments in a systematic, timely and conscientious fashion means doing some things before others. Assignments are meant to be done in the order indicated in the syllabus. Your study group should discuss and agree on a schedule that ensures timely completion of required tasks.
We will begin as 9.68 classes have been doing for more than two decades: with several weeks of reading (perhaps many of us re-reading) and discussing Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (William Morrow and Co., 1974). Notably, ZAAMM is a book whose subtitle identifies it as "An Inquiry into Values". How do "values" relate to "affect"?
Would-be serious students are expected to begin at once keeping their own personal 9.68_09 Journal. It is up to you to determine what to put into it, but it is also incumbent upon you to make clear to each other and to us the form that your Journal will take and the manner in which you propose to keep track of and evaluate the quality of your 9.68 experience, including (but not necessarily limiting yourself to) the account of the quality and amount of the time and effort that you will actually be putting into 9.68.
Arguably, we don't really know what we think and feel until we hear (or read) what we have to say (or write). If you are about to do some learning in this class, and want to be in a position to formatively and summatively evaluate it, you'd better start keeping track of the experience. In this connection, you are advised to get yourself a hard-bound "composition book" in which to make regular entries. If some would prefer to use a portable computer and electronic workfile we will need to have some further discussion before accepting that as a substitute for a hardcopy notebook. If you decide to keep part of your journal electronically, it makes a difference whether or not you also maintain a hard copy version. Searching the web for "keeping a journal" is a good way to find links that discuss the benefits of diligent journal keeping.
At very least, a journal devoted mainly to this class will assist you in keeping track of your own progress through the 9.68 learning experience. It will also enable you to formulate pertinent comments and/or relevant questions for study group and/or classroom discussions. In this way, the quality of your interventions in the proceedings will be enhanced and likewise the quality of class and group discussions. Use your Journal as a place to jot down "random" ideas and questions that may come to mind while you are reading (and at other times). Journal entries will also be useful in planning and writing assigned reaction papers. Use your journal as a place to keep track of your thoughts and feelings about the class, the instructors, your classmates and group members, the form and content of the subject matter, the relevance of the collaborative learning process to you.
It is important for all of us to take this most personal aspect of the workload seriously. We will not normally require you to submit your journals to us for examination.
However, it is incumbent upon "serious" students to keep it handy, to use it consistently, and to have it in hand at all 9.68 activities (class and study group meetings, fieldtrips, etc.) Get used to using it on a regular basis. Our aim is to encourage you to feel safe enough to take some real-world personal risks without fearing unwonted self exposure.
The only foreseeable circumstances under which we would be inclined to ask to see the contents of your journals would be in the unlikely event that you end up feeling or believing that our evaluation of the quality of your performance (as reflected in the final letter grade assigned to you by us) significantly underrates the quality of your actual performance and this becomes a seriously contested issue between us.
In evaluating your 9.68 performance, we will generally rely on a five-point scale as specified in the MIT course catalog (excellent, very good, good, fair, poor or failing). It's the Amount and Quality of your own personal participation that matters!
Keeping a Timesheet
Many people find this a difficult discipline to adopt, but our experience tells us that it is very important to keep track of your own performance. To help you monitor day-to-day, week-to-week, quantitative/qualitative overall time and effort of your 9.68 performance in real time, a printed form is appended. You should make entries no less frequently than three times per week (even if you need to consciously force yourself to do so). Learn to use it conscientiously: make timely and truthful entries and please bring it with you to class and be prepared to make it available for occasional inspection.
Writing Reaction Papers
These will normally be 1-2 pages in length on topics to be assigned. You are responsible for printing your own papers. "Everything that is said is said by someone." Insofar as possible, all assignments and reaction papers for 9.68 should be written in the voice of the first person singular and be the product of your own mind and hand (mens et manus). Please do not misunderstand. We are not trying to discourage you from consulting or discussing or quoting from or otherwise relying on the work of others. On the contrary, conscientious reliance on the work of others is both a necessary and a desirable hallmark of all serious scholarship. Insofar as the views of others are relevant in this connection, you should feel free to use their ideas and words as frequently and freely as necessary. Just make it a point to acknowledge your sources in each and every case.
A Caveat: The advent of the internet and the ease of access to information of dubious credibility via the world wide web presents us with the problem (to put it crudely) of "distinguishing shit from shinola." Some entries (not to mention whole web pages) are here today and gone tomorrow. It is advisable to be extremely cautious in evaluating such information. You will surely get into trouble in this regard if you don't carefully check and cross-check both the credibility of the source and the validity of the information.
Paper Chase Format
Assigned reaction papers and other submitted texts are to be conventionally footnoted (if necessary), carefully composed and legibly typed and proofread. The instructors may sometimes ask your permission to redistribute submissions so that each of your papers may be read/reviewed and commented on by one or more of your classmates/study-group mates. Please, submit no handwritten papers unless absolutely necessary and unavoidable (and approved by us).
Unless otherwise arranged in advance, all students will personally submit each and all of their own assignments to the instructors per their request, by hand, and in hardcopy form, at weekly class meetings. Please, no proxies. The use of group-mates as surrogates to hand in your hardcopy in you're absence is not permitted, except by prior arrangement. You should also have it available for email transmission, if necessary.
Ideally, your scheduling of tasks will permit you to develop a routine in which the reaction papers that you have drafted in a timely way can be circulated back and forth among study group members, thus affording opportunities for giving/receiving corrective feedback to/from group members before submitting your own final versions to the instructors.
Except for the final term paper (see below) no letter or number grades will be assigned to the written work that you turn in. However, it is our intention to carefully and completely read all timely submissions and to provide prompt feedback, in writing, on the quality of content and/or form — if possible at or before the following class session. Tardy submissions will be received and recorded as such and may be returned unread.
What is Collaborative Learning?
We define the groups that we have randomly formed (and their individual members) as 9.68 subsystems. This leads into a discussion of the "systems approach" to be taken. At the outset, a distinction needs to be drawn between cooperative and collaborative learning. See, e.g. Collaborative Learning: Some Points for Discussion.
We aim to create a classroom environment conducive to meaningful collaborative learning. We hope and expect that each and every one of you will find it to be both fun and informative — a quality learning experience.
Quality collaborative reaction papers (and term papers/proposals explained below) are welcome; However, don't be tempted to engage in collaborations with expectations conducive to mere dilution, rather than meaningful concentration of effort all-around. Quite the reverse should be the case.
Several heads are only better than one if there are no freeloaders and all are "operating on all cylinders". To be worthwhile, the process of producing collaborative projects or papers should involve more than merely stitching together a series of separate sentences written by different people. Meaningful collaboration means working together to achieve a high degree of effectiveness through constructive interdependence. Accordingly, expect it to require significant co-operation between and among authors for papers to exhibit a high level of internal consistency, coherence, and continuity.
Planning/Producing End-Of-Term Project or Paper
This can be on almost any topic and can take almost any tangible form (which must include documentation), provided only that its form and contents be clearly and coherently topically relevant to the subject matter learned and discussed in 9.68. Generally speaking, the choice of topic should be based on your own personal/social (e.g. academic/professional) experience and interests. It is up to you to show in your proposal how what you want to do relates to an aspect or aspects of the material dealt with in this class during the term.
Unless other arrangements are made beforehand, term papers are not to exceed 15 double-spaced pages in length, including notes and references.
The deadline for submission of fully completed term projects/papers is the beginning of the final regularly-scheduled class. Extensions will be granted only by prior arrangement and only under extreme circumstances.
Interim and Final Grades
Final grades will be based on the instructors' evaluation of the quality of individual termlong performance in all aspects of the subject, including our assessment of the timeliness, conscientiousness and skill with which assignments have been undertaken and completed, our perception of the overall quality of your (1) written work, (2) study group involvement, (3) classroom participation (in general) and (4) final term paper/project (in particular).
A Final Note about the 9.68 Learning Process
Each element of the curriculum is intended to be approached in a particular way — with everyone encountering each activity in the same sequential order.
This means that
- everyone is expected to start out "at home" — doing solo" homework — reading, writing and viewing assignments; before
- meeting with study group mates to discuss the material.
- identify class and homework and study group organizational issues needing to be discussed.
- arrange for timely submission of completed assignment(s) as required.
The collaborative learning systems approach as a whole has grown up in connection with a broader conceptual framework that envisages human systems as arising and existing in a more or less concentric matrix of "levels" (e.g. neurobiological, psychological and sociocultural) and being characterized — at each level — by counterpart cognitive, affective and expressive "aspects." See Table 1.
In 9.68, we take what we all personally and inwardly experience as "feelings" and sometimes confuse with "emotions" as our point of departure for a survey of "affect" its multifarious manifestations, and its relations to other things previously and concurrently ongoing in human systems at "underlying" organismic, molecular, genetic, (e.g. neurobiological, individual and collective species specifics), personal psychological (i.e. individual phylogenetic and ontogenetic mental and behavioral) and cultural/social (e.g. ecological context, time and place, local, familial, tribal, regional, religious, socioeconomic, national, linguistic, ethnic, socioeconomic, organizational, collective, institutional) levels of organization and development, and "surrounding" levels (biosphere, ecosphere, technosphere, solar system, galaxy, universe).
MIT Literature Statement on Plagiarism
Plagiarism – use of another's intellectual work without acknowledgement – is a serious offense. It is the policy of the Literature Faculty that students who plagiarize will receive an F in the subject, and that the instructor will forward the case to the Committee on Discipline. Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else's work must be identified and properly footnoted. Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student's own work. For further guidance on the proper forms of attribution, consult the style guides available at the Writing and Communication Center and the MIT Web site on Plagiarism.
|WEEK # ||TOPICS ||KEY DATES |
|1 || |
Class Meeting 1
"How do you feel?" "Affect at the point of entry"
"Who is addressing whom?" First Principles; A Definition of the situation.
Introduction and Overview: what is "affect"?" Why study it? How?
Conduct and Administration of Subject:
Pre-class assignment due
Benchmark questions due
|2 || |
Class Meeting 2
Human Systems: Levels and Aspects of Organization and Development
Lecture: Affective Aspects in Human Systems from cells and organisms to persons and Societies
Discussion: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Part I
|Writing assignment 1 due |
|3 || |
Class Meeting 3
MFA Field Trip Things of Beauty and Beholder's Eyes":
NOTE DAY/DATE CHANGE:
Keep going in ZAAMM thru Part II
Writing assignment 2 due
MFA photos due 1 day after Week #3
|4 || |
Class Meeting 4
Learning from Experience:
Discussion: Recapping/Evaluating MFA
Keep going in ZAAMM thru Part III
|Writing assignment 4 due |
|5 || |
Class Meeting 5
Keep going in ZAAMM thru part IV
|Writing assignment 5 due |
|6 || |
Class Meeting 6
What is Quality in Education?
|Writing assignment 6 due |
|7 || |
Class Meeting 7
Problématique du changement I:
Sustainable Paradigms Lost and Regained
What are "Crises?"
What is a "Scientific Revolution?"
Changing Beliefs, Values & Practices in Science and Society
|Writing assignment 7 due |
|8 || |
Class Meeting 8
The Neuropsychology of Affect;
The emotional brain and mental life
|Writing assignment 8 due |
|9 || |
Class Meeting 9
Psychosurgery: The Science of Violence and Vice Versa
|Writing assignment 9 due |
|10 || |
Class Meeting 10
Ethics of/in Science
|Writing assignment 10 due |
|11 || |
Class Meeting 11
"Sustainability" as a Worldview, Valuesystem, and Lifestyle
What Does It Have to Do with Affect?
Writing assignment 11 (term paper proposals) due 1 week after Week #10
Writing assignment 12 due
|12 || |
Class Meeting 12
Problématique du changement II:
Is a Paradigm Shift Happening?
Writing assignment 13 due
Writing assignment 14 due
|13 || |
Class meeting 13
Term Project/Paper Presentations and Closure Discussion
|Writing assignment 15 (term paper) due |