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Deep dive versus survey

April 20, 2006

Deep dive versus survey

This comment was almost overlooked, but it was well-said enough to get some prime-time treatment.  On the subject of teaching “big ideas” versus thinking skills (year long immersion in a given lit. period over surveys and the like),  Professor Zero said…
Well, I teach mostly foreign literature, so I have to give context. Fewer works, more context, is what has always worked best for me. It doesn’t mean you can’t tell them about the works they’re not reading, nor does it mean you have to give or expect seminar-style depth.Example: in the introduction to Latin American culture, I do not do what everyone else seems to do, namely, tell the cultural history of 20 countries from beginning to end, show slides, etc. NO. I pick some representative themes, and a representative author for each of these; then contextualize with other kinds of documentation and discussion.This allows me to sharpen research and writing skills also, by the way…Just my 2 cents.
I think this is along the lines of what I was thinking.  Instead of shot-gunning ideas and authors at the poor little things, explore fewer more deeply.

Of course, with the ever-growing canon and needs of ghetto-ized lits for a voice, there are tensions within this model inherent.  

Perhaps there is a happy medium.  One long, intro course where the deep model is performed, which then has a survey at a higher level for exposure.  That way the student gets both a deep dive for the depth and skills of reading/thinking and then the breadth of exposure.


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