Image

At a Faculty Development Workshop, Learning about Argument

I’ve spent the day at a workshop run by a grant-funded initiative called “State Your Case” and that’s examining how to help students develop and support a point of view, an academic argument. The professors in the room are now working on assignments from upcoming courses that they’ve brought here to revise, and since I don’t have a course to work on, I’m thinking about the stuff I learned this morning about what goes into a good argument and how this will impact the work that I do, and I’m also thinking about what, exactly, I’m doing here anyway. The first will have to wait until my brain kicks back in to higher gear later, but the “what I’m doing here” part is something I find really interesting.

I’m actually thrilled to be here even though all the workshop portions don’t really apply directly to me. I’m constantly trying to figure out how to reinforce the fundamental projects of the classes I support rather than flit more or less irrelevantly around the peripheries. (This isn’t just because I balk at the idea of being more or less irrelevant, just generally, but also because students will learn better from me if I seem less irrelevant.) Opportunities like this, where I get to sit in a room full of teaching faculty and learn together what these fundamental projects are and how they want to go about guiding students through them, are absolutely invaluable. We get to develop a shared vocabulary, align our pedagogical goals, and negotiate our priorities.

I’m also thrilled to have been invited to join this group. Four years ago I attended a similar workshop and constantly had to face overt or implied “why are you here” questions. That has been singularly absent this time. Maybe it’s that the faculty at Carleton have recently grown accustomed to having these interlopers from the library wandering among them at these things (and several have taken it upon themselves to directly invite us, which is wonderful), and that these other professors are taking their cue from the cohort from Carleton. Maybe it’s that I’ve become better able to say “I’m here because I work closely with students as they go through the process of matching evidence to argument, and because I want to reinforce the fundamental projects of your courses, so I need to know this stuff too.” Most likely it’s a combination of the two.

Whatever the reason, though, I’m here and learning a lot and enjoying it.