Friday, May 26, 2017

The Socratic Method and Getting in Trouble as a Professor

Excellent article in Inside Higher Education, which I read more than The Chronicle of Higher Education simply because IHE comes to my box everyday for free, but I also find the articles valuable.

https://chroniclevitae.com/news/1806-tread-carefully-with-the-socratic-method?cid=wcontentgrid_hp_9

This writer works in the same system I do and I know his situation.  I also have had the same kind of thing happening.

Sometimes when we play "devil's advocate" we are both trying to challenge critical reflection and expressing a viewpoint, or a half-way one.  I had a student skewer me on a student evaluation a few years back because I had the nerve to suggest that being a stripper was not a good career choice for women.

What I get from this is the granularity and care we must take with our language.  I am very guilty of letting my subconscious speak.  Sometimes this serves me well with some amazingly creative insights.  Other times I put my foot in it, and I'm not talking about my mouth.

At the same time, I agree with his syllabus disclaimer, and it should be common practice.  The students must be clearly told that their perception of a racist or sexist or otherwise offensive comment may be totally and only their perception and based on their own experiential biases. I will be doing that for my next f2f syllabus. 

It is odd to me that we encourage the students to express their own viewpoints and allow them to do so  but they would get upset in a discussion if the instructor does it, assuming the instructor (and this is important) frames it as his/her viewpoint and not as absolute, finalized truth.  Such a reaction on their parts is both a function of their immaturity and the snowflake condition, which is my next post. 


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