Learning from Scant Beginnings: English Professor Expertise

Learning from Scant Beginnings: English Professor Expertise

Learning from Scant Beginnings: English Professor Expertise

Learning from Scant Beginnings: English Professor Expertise

Synopsis

Using the teaching of John Milton as a case study, this book describes how a university English professor teaches an undergraduate course over a semester. Employing a 'situated learning' model, the author describes the details of literary learning and student development.

Excerpt

Learning is a product of social interactions; teaching is in
formed benevolent intervention that enables students to go
beyond where they would go on their own. Adult mediation
is at the core of good teaching—a more competent adult who
both participates and observes so that he or she can know
when assistance is requested or needed.

—Wilhelm and Edmiston, Imagining to Learn

And for the usual method of teaching arts, I deem it to be an
old error of universities, not yet well recovered from the
scholastic grossness of barbarous ages, that instead of begin
ning with arts most easy, (and those be such as are most obvi
ous to the sense), they present their young unmatriculated
novices, at first coming, with the most intellective abstracts
of logic and metaphysics … to be tossed and turmoiled with
their unballasted wits in fathomless and unquiet deeps of
controversy.

—Milton, “Of Education”

English professor EXPERTISE: a description

In imaginative literature classes at the college level, what do we know about the person who has responsibility for deciding and then implementing whether to teach students by “informed benevolent intervention” or by presenting “the most intellective abstracts of logic and metaphysics”? What must a university or college professor of literature know, and how must he or she impart that knowledge to those who know less? Who are these people and how do they think? To help answer these questions, this study examines the nature and characteristics of English professor expertise by closely analyzing several issues common to all those teaching imaginative literature. My focus is resolutely on the Professor. Although some recent and excellent empirical work has summarized those qualities of professorial behaviors as the “way outstanding teachers treat the people . . .

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