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David Gooblar on Twitter: "I want to urge you to read @rtraister's extraordinary piece on Elizabeth Warren as a professor. If you, like me, are very interested in both the future of this country and the discipline of teaching and learning, it’s more tha
[via: https://hewn.substack.com/p/hewn-no-316 ]

“I want to urge you to read @rtraister’s extraordinary piece on Elizabeth Warren as a professor. If you, like me, are very interested in both the future of this country and the discipline of teaching and learning, it’s more than worth your time.
https://www.thecut.com/2019/08/elizabeth-warren-teacher-presidential-candidate.html

Traister’s argument: although one might think Warren’s professorial manner might be a liability on the campaign trail, she’s actually a *really good* teacher, and the way that she’s a good teacher might be the key to her success, both as a candidate, and as a political leader.

The way teaching is talked about here—by Warren, but also by Traister—gets to the heart of what it means to be an inclusive teacher, and (to me) draws a thicker line between teaching for social justice and plain old political action for social justice.

For instance: Warren, as a law school prof, relied on the Socratic method in her classes. The Socratic method means different things to different people, but in a law-school context, it usually means the relentless grilling of students, one at a time, to reveal their weaknesses.

There are a lot of problems with this mode of teaching, like: what are all the other students supposed to be doing while the one unlucky sap is being questioned?

Traister refers to “the seeming paradox of a woman known as a bold political progressive adhering to an old-fashioned, rule-bound approach to teaching.” But it’s not a paradox, because the way Warren conceives of the Socratic method is actually deeply progressive.

She worried that “traditional” discussion, in which the professor only calls on those students who raise their hands, inevitably reinforced privilege. “The reason I never took volunteers,” Warren tells Traister, “is when you take volunteers, you’re going to hear mostly from men.”

Instead, she adopted a cold-calling approach that made sure as many students were involved in each class period as possible. Here, Traister quotes one of Warren’s TAs, whose sole job during class was to keep track of who had spoken, and who hadn’t yet.

[image: “In this position, Ondersma remembered, she had one job: to make sure everyone got called on equally. “The whole idea was that she wanted everybody in the classroom to participate.” Ondersma would sit with the class list and check off every student who’d gotten a cold-call question. Then, in the last ten minutes of the class, “I’d hand her a notecard with the names of all the students she’d not yet called on,” and Warren would try to get to them all.”]

(A few years ago I wrote about cold-calling as a way to invite students into discussions. It’s a weird thing: it feels old-fashioned and authoritarian to many of us, but it can actually help ensure your discussions are more democratic.)

In line with that emphasis on reaching everybody, whenever a student would come to office hours before an exam with a question, Warren would ask the student to write the question down, so she could send it (and her answer) to every student.

Traister quotes one of Warren’s students: “it was very important to her that people were not going to have any structural advantage because they were the kind of person who knew to come to talk to a professor in office hours.” What a great idea!

I often tell faculty that teaching is much more defined by their mindset than by whatever teaching strategies they adopt. From what this piece tells us, it’s clear that Warren gets that, and that her mindset is the right one.

Look at how she talks about teaching:

[images:

““That’s the heart of really great teaching,” she said. “It’s that I believe in you. I don’t get up and teach to show how smart I am. I get up and teach to show how smart you are, to help you have the power and the tools so that you can build what you want to build.””

"But she explained to him the thinking behind hers: 90 minutes, she said, is a long time to sit and be talked to. The Socratic classroom as she handled it forced everyone in it to pay close attention not only to what she was saying but also to what their fellow students were saying. She was not the leader of conversation; she was facilitating it, prompting the students to do the work of building to the analysis.

It’s a pedagogical approach that Warren sees as linking all of her experiences of teaching. “It’s fundamentally about figuring out where the student is and how far can I bring them from where they are.”"]

Her approach to teaching begins with students, with thinking about the students’ experience, with consciously altering her approach so that as many students as possible can get as valuable an experience as possible. That is, at heart, an inclusive teaching practice.

But maybe even cooler is the way in which Traister goes beyond showing what a great teacher Warren was. She connects Warren’s pedagogical approach with her political one, in a way that really gets me thinking about the role of teaching and learning in our public life.

We often talk about politics in terms of communication—how well a certain candidate is getting her ideas across to potential voters—but the task is more complex than that typical lens suggests. It’s less communication than it is persuasion—persuading people to act.

Persuading people to vote for you, yes. But also persuading people that they are capable of action. Persuading people that they have agency, that they can do more than they currently think they can.

If you want to succeed at this kind of persuasion, you’d be wise to learn from the scholarship of teaching and learning, which is precisely concerned with these questions. How do we help other people do things—for themselves?

If learning is the work of students—if we can’t *make* students learn—then how do we help them do that work? What conditions can we create that make that work more likely to happen? That is the teacher’s task.

Likewise, if real political change is the work of citizens—many, many citizens changing the political reality, not a single politician—then how do we create the conditions in which that work is more likely to happen? That, Warren suggests, is the political leader’s task.

Elizabeth Warren can’t make us do the work of banding together to defeat corruption, inequality, injustice. But maybe she can use inclusive teaching methods to help us come to the conclusion—on our own—that such action is necessary, and possible. That is a wild sentence to type.

Traister does great work drawing parallels between Warren’s teaching practice and her campaign tactics. She quotes Warren talking about the challenge of teaching people about her proposed wealth tax, and why it’s not so radical:

[image: "When she was first doing town halls, after proposing a wealth tax, she said, “I’d look at the faces and think, I don’t think everybody is connecting. It’s not quite gelling. So I tried a couple of different ways, and then it hit me. I’d say, ‘Anybody in here own a home or grow up where a family owned a home?’ A lot of hands would go up. And I’d say, ‘You’ve been paying a wealth tax forever. It’s just called a property tax. So I just want to do a property tax; only here, instead of just being on your home, for bazillionaires, I want it to be on the stock portfolio, the diamonds, the Rembrandt, and the yachts.’ And everyone kind of laughs, but they get the basic principle because they’ve got a place to build from.”"]

Elsewhere, Traister brilliantly points out that Warren’s habit of calling individual donors on the phone—regular people who gave $50 or whatever—mirrors her cold-calling in class, ensuring that *more people* are being heard from than the usual men raising their hands.

This is partly because I’m really inspired by Warren in general, but the piece really underlines for me the value of inclusive teaching, the importance of the work teachers do, in helping students remake themselves, and remake their worlds.

Inclusive teaching practices are based on sturdy research on how students learn best. But they follow, 1st of all, from a choice the teacher makes. We must choose to be committed to every student, to put their development first, to be led by them, rather than the other way around

That is, I’m sorry to say it, a political choice. Not because we’re trying to get our students to vote a certain way. But because we help students believe in their own possibility, in their own agency. I happen to think it’s hugely important.

Anyway, I should probably have just written this as an essay (and I don’t want to quote/screenshot from it any more)—go read the piece! https://www.thecut.com/2019/08/elizabeth-warren-teacher-presidential-candidate.html

Oh, and the companion episode of The Cut on Tuesdays (one of the best podcasts going, by the way), is delightful. You get to hear Warren herself talk about teaching, including a truly excellent rubber band metaphor that I’m going to use in workshops.
https://cms.megaphone.fm/channel/thecut?selected=GLT3342909803

Also also: [image of Elizabeth Warren with her dog]“
davidgooblar  elizabethwarren  teaching  howweteach  politics  elections  2019  2020  learning  howwelearn  education  highered  highereducation  inclusion  inclusivity  rebeccatraister  socraticmethod  instruction  pedagogy  via:audreywatters  cold-calling  lawschool  studentexperience  citizenship  participation  participatory  gender 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco

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