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Summer Institute Activities: Educational Connections

So, what kinds of things will we be doing at the Summer Institute? In last week’s posting, I noted that we’ll have 3 major focal areas: 1) learning the discussion process from the inside, 2) course development and connecting the discussion process to the classroom, and 3) citizen discussions–or engaging discussions beyond the classroom walls. In this entry I’ll focus on #2, how we’ll explore and develop the educational connections of the IF discussion process. Of course, these educational connections will be part of everything we do in the Summer Institute. As you practice the discussion process you’ll be thinking about how you’ll make it work in your classrooms. And the “lightning round” discussions I mentioned last week will focus on topics that explore these educational connections. On top of those activities, we’ll also have Course Planning Discussions, where we talk about and work on your course ideas, and Educational Discussions, where we talk more broadly about the educational implications of the IF discussion process in the classroom.

  • Course Planning Discussions

During the Summer Institute, we’ll have slots of time devoted to Course Planning. In some of these you’ll be able to share your ideas with each other and to collaborate with each other on fleshing out these ideas. Everything we do in the Summer Institute depends on taking that “yes–and” attitude of collaborative development. In terms of your course ideas, we’re asking you all to help each other think through the course ideas you each have. This will mean that you can’t be shy or defensive about sharing ideas, whether about your own courses or the courses of others. It also means that your contributions to the discussion should be in the spirit of creative agreement, where you accept the premise offered by another and try to build on it positively. Some of these course development discussions will take place in the whole group, and others will take place in your  smaller afternoon breakout groups. This course development will work best if you continue these discussions beyond the hours of our meetings. Let’s take advantage of the time we have together so we can help each other during informal conversations during the evenings as well.

In other Course Planning discussions we’ll cover some of the more concrete aspects of teaching student-centered discussion courses. We’ll talk about things like: what a typical week might look like, different models for different kinds of classes, student assessment, and managing the classroom. We’ll share some of what we’ve learned from our previous experiences. These discussions will help you sort out your thinking about how you’ll actually teach a student-centered discussion course.

  • Educational Discussions

We’ll also have some time for discussions that explore more broadly the educational implications of teaching with the IF discussion process. We’ll talk about things like: different notions of the role of the teacher, meeting the needs of the coming generation of students, and how student-centered discussion might connect to scholarship. Of course, these topics will often blend together with the Course Planning Discussions. In your Lightning Round discussions you’ll also be exploring many of these themes.

As a result of all these activities, we expect you’ll come away from the Summer Institute both with a clear sense of a specific course idea and a more robust sense of how this approach to teaching fits more broadly into your life as an educator.

–Jeff Prudhomme