I. Rationale for Co-teaching
The co-teaching component of 15.269 Literature, Ethics, and Authority counts for only 10% of your grade, yet it emphasizes the central conceptual elements of this course: if we have come together to study story-telling, ethical standards, and leadership, the co-teaching assignment allows us to explore those aspects of corporate behavior in the classroom.
We meet 22 times during the semester, in a format that allows for maximum participation from all seminar participants. If we don’t already know one another fairly well at the beginning of the semester, we will likely know one another much better by the end. That growing acquaintance brings with it an articulation of information unique to each participant; overall seminar-specific norms; and an individual sense of responsibility to the seminar. Co-teaching gives each of us a chance directly to exercise that responsibility.
II. Logistics of Preparation and Class
Early in the semester, the TA for 15.269 will compose randomly selected teams of five people each. In the course of the semester, those teams will write three short team papers. Each team will also lead the class in a discussion of a specific text or film.
Two to three days before the class session for which your team has signed up (week 3), the five of you will sit down with the TA and me to map out a teaching plan for the day. We expect the team to have read or viewed the material in preparation for the planning session. Over an hour and-a-half, we will discuss what you liked and disliked about the material for your chosen class, as well as your sense and our sense of how it fits into the syllabus as a whole, and the specific course module. We will also set goals that you and we hope to achieve in the class discussion. The concrete take-away from the planning session should be five or six questions that you and we agree will generate discussion.
You then have a choice of two approaches to the class itself:
- You can lead the entire class in plenary format, with one or more team members playing the role of moderator; or
- You can split the class into five sub-groups, with each team member managing one sub-group for roughly 60", and then return them to the plenary format, where I will step in to manage the close of the discussion. If you opt for the overall plenary approach, the TA and I may ask follow-on questions in session; if you take the small-group approach, we will circulate among the groups to listen in and comment, as needed, and then I will manage the last 20" of the discussion in standard plenary mode.
In either format, you will want to apply the following techniques:
- Present questions, not answers: You will quickly realize, from the course of class discussions in 15.269, that your primary role lies in asking engaging questions; you do not stand before the class or your sub-group to provide answers, though you may feel, having invested time in preparing for the discussion, that you have them. Your questions should allow your classmates to arrive at their own conclusions—if all goes well, in synch’ with your expected conclusions!—in terms articulated by the participants themselves.
- Listen closely: You will ask provocative questions—beyond the half dozen with which you walked into the room—only if you listen closely to what people are saying. Each of your major questions will generate discussion that in turn should generate a score of lesser questions.
- Remember what people say: You will ask much better questions, over the course of the session, if you can remember who says what. Remembering comments allows you to juxtapose statements from the same person at different points during the class: The result may be a distinctive portrait of that person’s thinking or general attitude toward the topic under discussion; it often also reveals sharp contradictions within a single person’s views! If you remember people’s comments, you can also juxtapose the views of different members of the class, which will allow a more targeted agreement or debate on a specific issue.
III. Post-Class Evaluation
Within 24 hours following the class, I will send you an e-mail evaluation of your co-teaching; the grade I assign will apply to all members of the team, except those who for one reason or another didn’t contribute to the preparation and delivery of the assignment. The evaluation will cover the strengths and weaknesses of your session, relative both to your teaching plan and to the possibilities that actually emerged in the class. You have the option, then, to meet briefly (no more than half an hour) with the TA and me to discuss the content of the evaluation, and to review your sense of the session.
Students generally do good and unique things with this opportunity to lead the class. Smart, inviting questions flow naturally from a thoughtful approach to your subject—in this case, that subject is the material provided by the course, your classmates, your team, your TA, and me. Good luck!