Teaching Literature Workshop Series: Spring 2020

This six-part workshop series is designed to help graduate students develop strategies for designing and teaching undergraduate literature courses. The sessions will focus on preparing students to teach nonmajors in Notre Dame’s 20xxx-level course but will also help participants think broadly about approaching literature courses in a variety of contexts. Thus, the series is geared toward third- and fourth-year students who are currently teaching, or planning to teach, the 20xxx-level course at Notre Dame but will be useful for any grad student seeking to improve their pedagogical skills. The first two workshops will focus on course design and planning; the next two on assignments and assessment; and the final two on in-class activities and teaching strategies.

All sessions will take place on Fridays from 12:30-2:00 p.m. in Decio 235. The first 30-45 minutes of each session will be an informal conversation, led by a graduate student or postdoc facilitator, between a faculty member and the workshop participants. The faculty member will speak about their experiences with the topic under discussion; share some best practices and sample course materials where appropriate; and answer questions from the workshop participants. The remainder of the session will primarily be conducted by the grad student/postdoc facilitator, who will lead participants through a collaborative workshop in which they can begin developing materials and strategies related to the session topic. The faculty member is welcome, though not obligated, to stay for this portion of the session and to coordinate with the facilitator as they see fit. 

January 24: Narrative Arc, with Francisco Robles
Facilitator: Jake Schepers
In this workshop, we’ll talk about developing the story of your course, creating a narrative arc from beginning to end and making connections between texts and units. The session will likely include a discussion of how to develop the “big questions” of your course, how to negotiate thematic versus chronological approaches, and how to think about text selection. Participants will leave the workshop with the broad outlines of a proposed literature course and some ideas about the main questions the course will address.

January 31: Learning Goals, with Mark Sanders
Facilitator: Jeremy Davidheiser
This session will focus on creating learning goals for the literature course using the principle of backward design. We’ll think specifically about the purpose of the 20xxx-level literature course, or literature courses in general, and about conceptualizing courses in line with university curricula. Participants will leave the workshop with a rough draft of their learning goals for a proposed course. 

February 14: Assignment Design, with Ian Newman
Facilitator: Eric Lewis
In this session, we’ll think about how to craft assignments in line with the university’s writing and fine arts and literature curricula. We’ll discuss approaches to traditional assignments, like the literary analysis paper and midterm or final exams, and best practices for designing them: i.e., how to create effective essay prompts and test questions. But we’ll also explore alternatives to the essay and exam, and think creatively about what kinds of nontraditional assignments can help fulfill our learning goals. Participants will leave this session with a list of potential assignments for their proposed course and a rough outline of one assignment they would like to develop. 

February 21: Assessment and Evaluation, with Kate Marshall
Facilitator: Margie Housley
Following the session on assignment design, this workshop will focus on grading literature assignments and providing feedback. In particular, we’d like to think about how to craft effective rubrics, provide constructive commentary for students, and grade both fairly and efficiently. Participants will leave this workshop not only with better grading strategies but also with a rough draft of a rubric.

March 20: Facilitating Discussion, with Susan Harris
Facilitator: Dominique Vargas
In this workshop, we’ll focus on goals and strategies for facilitating productive discussion in the literature classroom: how to craft effective discussion questions, how to promote equal and equitable participation, how to keep discussion on track, and what to do if it goes off the rails. Participants will leave this workshop with a lesson plan for a discussion-based class session. 

March 27: Teaching Close Reading, with Laura Knoppers
Facilitator: Emily Donahoe
This session will consider strategies for teaching close reading and explore different ways to help students hone their reading skills. We’ll think in particular about how to incorporate close reading into class discussion and into writing instruction. Participants will leave this workshop with a close reading exercise to employ in their literature courses.