- From Graduate Level Latin Pedagogy Course to Classics Pedagogy Course
In 2010–2011, the Ohio State University Latin pedagogy course was altered to cover topics beyond those specific to Latin pedagogy issues. These topics included general pedagogy theory and technique, as well as issues pertaining to the teaching of classics courses. There were a number of reasons for the shift to a broader coverage of pedagogy, some specific to the Department of Classics and others inspired by larger academic trends. Within our department, due to more limited faculty availability, TAs are increasingly the primary instructors in lower-level classics courses such as Greek/Roman Civilization or Introduction to Greek/Roman Literature. Given that these are the first non-language courses many TAs have taught, wider pedagogical training is useful for them, especially in course structure, syllabus writing, and lesson planning. This broader training is also meant to remedy an overreliance among the graduate students on a narrow, literature-based approach to teaching classics courses. In other words, some TAs were unable to articulate a clear plan for teaching a history or culture course that did not involve sole reliance on ancient literature in translation.
General trends in academia also demand a more sophisticated pedagogical approach from instructors. Anecdotal evidence, as well as studies such as Academically Adrift by Arum and Roksa,1 reveal today’s typical undergraduate to be emotionally immature, lacking in basic academic skills, and possessing a low degree of personal initiative. The average student now devotes far more time to his/her job and extracurricular and social activities than to studying or going to class, and often expects to be told what to do (and how to do it) at nearly every stage of a course. This trend is showing no signs of reversing itself, which raises the question, of how an instructor should address this situation in his/her curriculum, exams, and mentoring. Traditional teaching methods do not necessarily work with this new breed of student, and simply saying students should study more (or more effectively) does not make it happen. Additional pedagogical training in new theories and techniques will provide graduate students with tools to more effectively impart the knowledge which both the above-mentioned study and personal experience are telling us is not being retained. In short, in order to better prepare graduate students for their teaching assignments as TAs, the job market, and future academic teaching duties, a broader training in pedagogy is necessary. Changes to our pedagogy course were thus in the best [End Page 114] interests of undergraduate and graduate students alike, as well as the profession at large.
I began to experiment with a broader thematic format for the course in fall 2010 in part because of my own observations regarding the graduate students’ partial lack of awareness of larger pedagogical issues, and partly to fill what I saw as a hole in our department’s pedagogical training—why should only the Latin TAs have a dedicated pedagogy course, and not our classics TAs for courses such as mythology or introduction to Greek literature? After all, not every faculty member teaching such a course is willing, available, or conscious of the need to explain the pedagogy behind his/her curriculum. Indeed, during the first quarter of the altered format, I observed both a need and desire for these kinds of broader topics amongst the Latin TAs. I therefore raised discussion at the end of that quarter with the department chair as well as the other faculty regarding the possibility of permanently instituting a broader pedagogy course that could either enroll classics and Greek TAs as well as Latin TAs, or run separate meetings for Latin and classics TAs. (A departmental decision was subsequently made to broaden the existing pedagogy program beyond its former focus on Latin TAs, but the exact form of this expansion is yet to be determined; a final decision will most likely come once the university’s switch from quarters to semesters has been completed in fall 2012.)
However, during my experimental year of teaching pedagogy, changes I made were directed at content, rather than enrollment, which remained restricted to Latin TAs. The new structure...