No matter what you try, you find it nearly impossible to get students to participate in classroom discussions in your course. They hardly ever contribute; they hardly ever ask questions; they offer answers to your questions only reluctantly. What can you do?
What would you do? This classroom scenario and others will be discussed by participants in a day-long orientation workshop for new faculty and graduate teaching assistants on Friday, Sept. 1.
Workshops and panel discussions will focus on teaching-related topics including classroom dilemmas such as the one described. Discussions will be led by seasoned MIT faculty members, including several who have won teaching awards. The program is sponsored by the Teaching Resource Network (TRN) and organized by staff in Undergraduate Academic Affairs and the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School.
A welcome by Professors Lawrence Bacow, faculty chair, and Frank Perkins, outgoing dean of the Graduate School, will open the session followed by a panel on Perspectives on Teaching. Panelists will be Professors Alvin Drake (electrical engineering and computer science), Anne Mayes (materials science and engineering) and Mark Schuster (urban studies and planning).
Workshops on Teaching Students to Think in Different Settings, each led by a faculty member and TA, will round out the morning program.
Professor Donald Sadoway and Peter Vaz will lead the discussion on small classes and recitations; Professor Peter Dedon and Jonathan Wilkerwill head the workshop on laboratories, and Professor Drake and David W. Laws will address tutorials and grading.
Between the morning and afternoon sessions, President Charles Vest will host a luncheon for workshop participants. Department heads, school deans, and other senior members of the faculty will attend the luncheon as well.
"Problems, Pitfalls, Booby Traps and Surprises." will highlight the afternoon workshops. Scenarios will spark discussion about issues that teachers may confront in the classroom and in their relationships with students. The scenarios were written by Dr. Lori Breslow, program director for TRN teaching initiatives and lecturer at the Sloan School, and Professor Schuster, TRN faculty chair.
Parallel panel discussions in which former new faculty and graduate TAs share their experiences and offer advice to their new colleagues will round out the program.
Workshop attendees will be the first recipients of the revised and expanded guide to recitation section teaching, "The Torch or the Firehouse." This popular booklet-first issued in 1981-has been updated by its author, Professor Arthur P. Mattuck (mathematics), and will be distributed to department offices in early September. Individual copies may be obtained by calling the Teaching Resource Network, Rm 7-133, x3-9419 or email
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on August 30, 1995.