- A Graduate Level Latin Pedagogy Course in a Classics Ph.D. Program
This report will offer a brief history of the course on Latin pedagogy at The Ohio State University, its development, and current concerns. I think it is important to emphasize at the outset that this course is a work in progress. I also want to begin by noting that it is typical that pedagogy at research universities tends to become the concern of one faculty member and, when that person leaves, it falls into desuetude. This will not be the case at OSU. Two years ago my colleague Anna McCullough stepped in to teach the Latin pedagogy course while I was on sabbatical. In future, we will teach the pedagogy course in tandem, insuring both [End Page 109] that there are different interests and emphases in the two-year sequence and that the department’s commitment to good teaching on the part of its graduate students will continue when either of us should leave. In her own report, Professor McCullough will outline both her interests and emphases and the new directions that are possible for pedagogy at OSU. My report here has three parts: beginnings, curriculum review, and the teaching certificate.
Before 1997, so far as I know (and I was hired in 1985), the efforts of the Classics Department to take seriously the need for pedagogical training (or advice or mentorship) were negligible and random, certainly not formal. In 1997, when I became involved in curricular reform, the College of Humanities (now reorganized under the College of Arts and Sciences) was offering language TAs an introductory two-week workshop in Language Pedagogy before autumn quarter. Some of our students, feeling the need for some training before the faculty realized that such a need existed, attended these courses but were dissatisfied by the emphasis on conversational models of language learning. They felt, rightly so, I believe, that this course was of little use for them, but they still wanted some guidance and instruction. As an alternative, I, who was chair of the department at the time, created a noncredit, volunteer roundtable discussion for Latin TAs. Due in part to the perceived authority of the chair, this discussion group was well attended. I decided against a two-week session in large part because I felt that I had no special knowledge to impart or authority to teach others how to teach. I did not believe that good teaching was the product of knowledge under the model of things to be learned and then practiced. I thought that teaching was really a kind of improvisation, recreated (or not) in every class, and that we served new teachers best by helping them to pool the resources of the department, and encouraging flexibility, invention, and self-awareness.1 So, I had roundtable discussions: I would ask the TAs how their classes were going, what problems they wanted to discuss, and what had been particularly successful in their classrooms. Others would comment, offer suggestions, and so on. This meeting was simultaneously a community resource and an ongoing conversation. In fact, I have often felt that the primary function of these discussions was to encourage further discussion outside of the classroom. Consequently, to [End Page 110] encourage such conversations, I required our TAs to visit each other’s classrooms, and to return to our group with specific examples of techniques, attitudes, or responses that they had found either particularly effective or potentially useful for their classrooms.
This is not to say that the course was without specific content. From the beginning I would offer mini-presentations on various aspects of the Latin classroom and Latin grammar, in part because I believed that there were some useful best practices (even though I did not believe either that adopting certain techniques constituted in itself good teaching or that good teaching necessarily entailed the techniques I advocated). Furthermore, the underlying purpose of these modules was less to impart techniques than to encourage an attitude toward teaching that emphasized the question, “How do I help my students make progress?” and “How do I get out of the way of the progress they are...