Jeff Vande Zande wrote:
The following is a training exercise that I used in Supplemental
Instruction training. It worked well, and I think it can translate to
other tutor training situations.
At Oakland University, we have SI in math, chemistry, accounting, and
statistics. My own background is in English (and sound pedagogical
practices). To help the SI Leaders understand the feelings of the students
they are working with, I do the following.
1. I have the SI leaders sit in a traditional classroom arrangement.
Then, I give a twenty minute lecture on scanning lines of poetry. The
overall theme of the lecture is that scanning poetry can help one
understand meaning, but the specifics of the lecture focus on stressed and
unstressed syllables and the names of metrical structures. Before I begin
lecturing, I encourage the SI leaders to take notes.
2. After I am finished with the lecture, I tell them there will be a test
on Friday on which they will need to be able to scan poetry and show how it
relates to meaning. (They all kind of laugh, mainly because they're so
befuddled by the lecture.)
3. I leave the room and come back in -- now playing the part of the SI
Leader. I break them into groups, give them some lines of poetry, and tell
them to work together to scan the lines. They laugh, but stop when they
see that I am serious. It's fun to watch these otherwise cracker jack math
and science students struggle with the material. They fidget, get angry,
throw up their hands, shake their heads, say (loud enough for me to hear)
how stupid the material is or how useless it is.
After fifteen minutes, I have members from the group come to the board and
scan the poetry for us. Some get it, but invariably they make mistakes,
which others point out. They get more frustrated with mistakes (making
claims like "I'm not an English major" or "I've never like poetry")
Sometime during their rants I stop the room and say, "what you are feeling
right now about poetry is exactly what many of your students in SI feel
about calculus or chemistry or accounting." Many SI leaders told me that
it really turned on a light for them. It helps the SI Leaders transcend
their own attitude toward the subjects they assist with and see things
through the students' eyes.
I continue working with them in an SI Leader role, but I focus on helping
them see that the scanning is simply the perfunctory step that leads to
understanding the poem's meaning through scansion. Once we begin to look
at the scanning that way, they begin to enjoy it more.
For instance, in a line of poetry like this from John Dryden:
The rest to some faint meaning make pretense, (perfect iambic pentameter)
But Shadwell never deviates into sense. (not only is there no
pattern to the stressed and unstressed syllables, but there is also an
extra half foot)
What Dryden does to illustrate Shadwell's senselessness is to use
senseless meter in the line he uses to describe Shadwell. (Of course, I
let the SI Leaders discover this by asking them, "How does the way Dryden
wrote these two lines add to the meaning of the poem?" When they explain
it to me and I praise them, they become interested and actually want to
scan more poems).
We spend some time at the end talking about what happened and how it
can translate into their own SI sessions.
I know not everyone would be comfortable scanning poetry, but you can
do this with just about any aspect of your own discipline. The important
thing is to take the SI Leaders/tutors out of their comfort zones -- which
will help them transcend themselves when they begin to run their own SI
Hope someone can use that,
Jeff Vande Zande