Why do I do it like this?
There are some features of this course that may differ from your other college-level experiences. I have picked out my course design based on current research into pedagogy; we have research available on what does and does not help you actually learn things.
Lectures are not very helpful
They are not particularly harmful either, but in particular they work less efficiently for conveying the material than your reading the book does.
In general, adding other people’s perspectives to your own, and articulating your own understanding clearly enough to communicate them to others both are very powerful ways of solidifying your understanding, fixing it in place.
Constantly working helps
By far the most effective measure of learning is something called Time on task. The more time you spend on the ideas, techniques, questions, texts, material, the more you learn.
How do you get yourself to spend more time?
Do exercises. Keep on doing things every week.
The weekly homework, as well as the larger projects are both designed to do precisely this. They keep you working on our techniques and ideas through the entire semester, and the projects mean that every new idea we introduce, every new technique we practice is immediately applicable to a larger context you spend the entire semester working with.
Reflecting on your own learning helps
By looking back at what you have just done, and thinking through what it was, helps fixing the new information in place. I try to get you to do this by requiring a weekly self-reflection. You answer What have I learned? and What was difficult? after the reading and before the lecture – early enough that I can read your answers and adapt my lecture – and this forces you to review and evaluate your own understanding.
Evaluating someone else’s work helps
Just like explaining to someone else is an immensely powerful way to make sure you remember and incorporate the things you have learned, evaluating someone else’s work helps you figure out what “correct” looks like, and what “well communicated” looks like. I will be providing answer keys, for you to refer to during the peer-evaluation step.
But you just make us do your job!!
Actually, my job is to make you learn. My job is not to somehow pour knowledge into your brains – it doesn’t work that way. Instead, I setup a path which if you walk it, you walk away knowing more than when you started.