From Swarthmore Professor Tim Burke:

While they’re here [at Swarthmore] their writing may improve, their skills in using various academic disciplines may deepen, their knowledge of a particular subject or field may grow very impressively. But many students who grow in those ways do not necessarily become better at speaking or at presenting themselves effectively, not even in the controlled environment of classroom discussion. To be honest, I think some of our students become worse at self-presentation and speaking skills in their time here. Some adapt too strongly to the narrow particularity of academic conversation. Other students get too used to political or social engagement with a community that politely indulges most of their demands or arguments or has a fairly strong consensus culture, never really experiencing serious disagreement or plurality of opinion. I’ve occasionally suggested, semi-seriously, that I feel like we train some students as the speaking and presentation equivalents of baby seals on the ice, waiting to get clubbed.

Indeed. I like to imagine that tutorials help with this. I have heard that some tutorials involve some serious and contentions back-and-forths between the students and with the professor. True? What was your experience in tutorials? One of the main reasons to end all lectures is that, the more small classes that students are in, the more they are forced into speaking in a public setting, even if it is one as supportive as a Williams classroom.

Print  •  Email