6.969 Readings in Teaching

Mondays 11-12, Room 5-135 (starts 18 Sept 2006)

Instructors: Sanjoy Mahajan and Stephen Hou. Sanjoy's office: 5-122k; telephone: x3-0602.


Please fill out the evaluation for the Underground Guide to Course Six. Stephen and I added a few custom questions to the template, and your feedback (on those and the rest of the evaluation) will be very useful.

6.969 is a discussion-based weekly seminar for graduate students interested in teaching. Readings include research articles on the historical, cognitive, academic, and sociological aspects of teaching and learning. The focus is on the teaching of science and engineering.

Topics include design-oriented analysis, low-entropy expressions, teaching the art of educated guessing, and how chess grandmasters and concert pianists acquire their expertise.


Reading For when To do

Joel H. Spring, Education and the Rise of the Corporate State, Boston, Beacon Press (1972), pp. xi-xii.

David Nasaw, Schooled to Order: A Social History of Public Schooling in the United States, New York, OUP, pp. 44-47, 52-53 (1979).

Louis P. Benezet The Teaching of Arithmetic I: The Story of an Experiment, Journal of the National Education Association, vol 24, pp. 241-244 (November 1935). Read Part I, but if you are curious feel free to browse through the other parts or other articles on the site.

11 December

Why do some educational changes (like compulsory, public schooling) live long and propser, while others (like Benezet's mathematics curriculum) fade away?

John B. Thompson, Books in the Digital Age, Cambridge, England, Polity Press (2005), selected pages. Read pp. 209-218 ('The package wars' and 'The growth of the used book market'). The extra pages in the PDF file, which is the section 'Some consequences', are for those who are curious.

Paul Ginsparg, Creating a global knowledge network, Second Joint ICSU Press--UNESCO Expert Conference on Electronic Publishing in Science, Paris, 19-23 Feb 2001.

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Isaac McPherson (13 Aug 1813), Writings, vol 13, pp. 333-335.

4 December

How do you see the future of textbook and scholarly publishing?

R. D. Middlebrook, Methods of design-oriented analysis: Low-entropy expressions, New Approaches to Undergraduate Education IV, Santa Barbara, 26-31 July 1992.

R. D. Middlebrook, Analog design needs a change in perspective, Electronic Engineering Times, 7 October 1991.

(for fun)R. D. Middlebrook, Methods of design-oriented analysis: The quadratic formula revisited, Proc. IEEE Frontiers in Education, 22nd Annual Conference, Vanderbilt University, November 11-15, 1992.

27 November

How can you apply these ideas to fields other than analog circuit design?

Robert R. Morrison, The Lecture System in Teaching Science, Undergraduate Education in Chemistry and Physics: Proceedings of the Chicago Conferences on Liberal Education, No. 1, edited by R.R. Rice (Univ. of Chicago Press), pp. 50--58 (1986).

(for fun) Frank L. Lambert, Effective teaching of organic chemistry, Journal of Chemical Education 40(4): 173-174 (April 1963).

20 November

How can lectures be used to promote learning? What is the role of textbooks? Will modern technology (computers, the Internet, etc) improve teaching? What examples, good or bad, have you seen?

K. Anders Ericsson and Neil Charness, Expert performance: Its structure and acquisition, American Psychologist (August 1994).

13 November

Questions to start discussion: What teaching experiences have you had (as teacher or student) with deliberate practice? Or with lack of deliberate practice?

Only for My Kid: How Privileged Parents Undermine School Reform Phi Delta Kappan (April 1998)

Chapters 1 (Why We Must Disestablish School) and 3 (Ritualization of Progress) from Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich

30 October

These classic readings are controversial. So come prepared to discuss and argue about them!

Knowing and teaching elementary mathematics (reviewed by Richard Askey) American Educator, pp. 1-8 (Fall 1999)

Selection from Liping Ma (1999) Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics: Teachers' Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics in China and the United States, Lawrence Erlbaum.

23 October

Questions to think about:

  1. What are the differences between understanding and rote knowledge? How can one distinguish the two in a student? In one's own knowledge?
  2. What kinds of teaching promote understanding?
  3. What do you think of this statement: Good teaching is good thinking.
Culture and systems of thought: Holistic vs. analytic cognition. Psychological Review 108: 291-310 16 October

Questions to think about:

  1. In your experience as a student and/or as a teacher, have you encountered specific pedagogical techniques that can be considered holistic? What about ones that can be considered analytic? Again, in your experience, have you encoutered fields of study that are "intrinsically" more holistic or more analytic?
  2. Discuss how modern science and engineering exhibits both holistic and analytic thought.
  3. Given the paper's conclusions, how might educators consciously devise their curricula and methods of instruction to take advantage of both holistic and analytic styles of cognition?
Millikan Lecture 1994: Understanding and teaching important scientific thought processes (F. Reif) 2 October

Bring one example of a misconception that you've noticed in your or other students.

The problem with problems. 18 September

Bring one example of a good problem, from your teaching or other experience and knowledge, along with how to make it a bad problem. (This assignment will make sense after reading the paper.)

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