A Pedagogical Issue

Much recent pedagogy operates on the assumption--the presupposition--that students (or anyone for that matter) have a 10-15 min. attention span. Accordingly, educators (or presenters of information of any kind for that matter) should tailor their lesson plans, presentations, and general mode of educating to this "established" empirical data. You might even say we educators have a duty to do as much as possible, or at least make a strong effort, to stimulate our students, to force them to engage, to "do them justice."
Another might object that this does our students (and citizens for that matter) a disservice. Our job as educators is to act as a resource of content for students--and it is up to them to take responsibility for mastering the information on their own. In fact, this laissez-faire approach may best embody an implicit duty of teaching not to coddle our students, so that they may learn to take responsibility for their own actions.
Personally, I tend to be more optimistic about students than most current pedagogy is. But perhaps my own anecdotal warrant for this optimism is as inadequate as, well, anecdote tends to be. I'd like to think that my own enthusiastic presentation of the material will be sufficient for the students, and that if it is not, its their fault and not mine. Am I a confident educator, or a naive well-wisher? Or even worse, am I actually negatively affecting students through my approach?
More generally, what's the best approach to pedagogy on the spectrum ranging from robust-progressive-liberal-educator to minimalistic-conservative-libertarian? Would love people's thoughts on this.


  1. I also favor the contagious enthusiasm model, but then I have much smaller classes than you do, so maybe it's not the same. The notion that we can ever tailor a class to our students' needs presumes that all our students have the same needs, which is absurd. So I think the instructor should do what he/she finds most effective and most comfortable. Unfortunately, figuring out what that is usually involves plenty of trial and error, but I don't think that's avoidable.

  2. we've talked about this a bit and so i won't belabor this point much, but i think that we have a distinct responsibility as educators to educate. the job of the university is to produce and disseminate information, until we are public intellectuals, a la west or singer, our public is confined to the classroom. as such, we ought to be conscious of forming a pedagogical foundation that while not definitely appealing to the lowest common denominator, broaches something that raises that point of mass agreement without ignoring the needs of more advanced students. simply, i suggest lots of required one on one office meetings so that particular attention could be paid to the needs of the individuals, while at the same time discovering the union sets amongst the class as a whole.