“In short…”

My first blog… I think. I think this is where I am supposed to post it!  (NOPE!  This is my second attempt to post…. I’ll get the hang of this by next week!)

I started my course reading this week with ”Textual Intervention, Critical and Creative Strategies for Lit Studies” by Rob Pope, which is about teaching literature through several different lenses of literary theory. What was most interesting about this is that Pope never actually mentions that his methods of reading (or interacting with) a text are actually literary theories. But they most certainly are! Over the course of discussing his examples, Pope addressed feminist theory, reader response, formalism, historical, biographical, even a little psychoanalytic. As a high school English teacher, I teach a hefty unit on literary criticism and theory and felt encouraged by his suggestions for approaching the difficult task. It can be daunting when faced by a room of 25+ juniors to show the benefits of reading texts in a new way. I appreciate that he describes the reader’s criticism of a text as ”a dramatic monologue” where choices are made to affect one’s interpretation (Pope 21). Each reader will dramatize literature in a slightly different way, but it’s necessary to see those differences in order to hone in on the author’s base-text.
I then read “How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School.” This article discussed how experts grapple with content in comparison to how novices engage with the same content. What I found most interesting here was the author’s point about students developing “adaptive expertise” (50). The author suggests that students, like experts, should be metacognitive about their learning. It is ideal that students should first try to master the content and, second, reflect on how they got there, but in the fast-paced world of public high schools, there is very little breathing room between one state benchmark and the next. A line in this article angered me. It said, “In short, students need to develop the ability to teach themselves”(50). How can this be “in short”? I feel this is a gross exaggeration of how teachers can foster metacognitive skills in students. It is only through consistent practice at reflecting—in writing, in dialogue, in practice—that a student can learn to value the act of reflection and then to internalize it and teach himself. It’s not so simple that a student can “in short” learn to teach himself. While that line ruffled my feathers, I do agree with the author’s overall premise that students need to learn the “expert-level” skills of noticing, organizing, representing, and interpreting content in order to develop understanding of a topic. Teachers (experts) must help students (novices) to focus on the “big ideas” and concepts in a unit and not on the small details. When one can see the overarching goals of a unit, it’s then easier to see how the small pieces fit together.