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Tuesday, 7 October 2003

Celeste hutchins
Graduate Pedagogy

I attended ARHA 213: Monastic Utopias. The class topic is architecture of Christian monastic buildings before 1300. to talk about this, the teacher uses two slide projectors which show pictures of architectural drawings and photographs of extant buildings or ruins or woodcuts of what the buildings used to look like or art from said buildings. He uses a laser pointer to point out whatever features that he is discussing. This class takes place early in the morning in a dark classroom, but when I was there, all the students appeared to be awake.

The use of slides leads to students facing away from the professor, since he sits at the back of the classroom by the slide projectors and the slides are projected onto the front wall.

Periodically, the professor will stop lecturing and ask the class leading questions, either ones that they know the answer to or ones that the only know part of the answer to. He will use their answers to fill in gaps in discussed material or to go on to new topics. Sometimes he asks questions which they can only guess at and when someone makes an obvious answer, he will say something like, "I would completely agree, but other evidence says it's exactly the opposite." His initial agreement acts as praise to the student and his subsequent disagreement gets the other students attention and helps point out that answers are not obvious. He may then explicitly discuss pedagogy and talk to students about how to reason from evidence. I talked to him after class and he said that his highest hope was that students learn to ask the right sort of historically relevant questions.

When the professor makes an important point, he may highlight it by spelling out the vocabulary word that he just used, thus cueing students to write it down. He uses the history of architecture to explain trends in Christianity, for instance that pointing out that one church's crypt is an exact replica of another church's crypt, because the second church was gaining power and the first church wanted to ally themselves with the power and legitimacy of the first church. Thus, he talks about political developments through architecture and architectural copying. this is like a music history class, which also touches on politics and how it affects written music.

The teacher will break up the class a bit. He spends a while lecturing from the slides and then will pause to take or ask questions. He might then return to the slides or lecture without the aid of pictures. When he's taking questions, he may quietly advance the slide, thus cueing students that he's ready to move on when they are. when he's giving the lecture he may signal important points through spelling, or stress in his voice. He occasionally will make a joke about the material, lightening the mood and perhaps signaling a change in importance in the material. for instance, he mentioned something in passing about St Cruddedon and made a remark that the saint's parents must not have liked him very much, or they would have named him David or Bill. The students only laughed a little at this (it only deserves a little laugh), but it did relax them a bit.

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