Learning from Scant Beginnings: English Professor Expertise

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1st Edition

240 x 160 mm. 312pp ... [In stock in Australia, for immediate delivery]

Although teaching is perhaps the central public activity of most university English professors, one finds surprisingly little research in the specifics of expert professorial practice that are not either the end products of successful teaching, or the conflation of expertise in the subject matter with pedagogical expertise.

This case study describes the moves an expert professor makes in a semester-long process, of reaching a literature far removed from most undergraduates' experiences in a day-to-day study of an advanced undergraduate course in the writings of John Milton. Employing a 'situated learning' model to help explain the incremental growth of students' knowledge and critical skills, Dr. Knapp details how an expert professor teaches complex literary works to undergraduates with no previous exposure to an author's writings.

Generalising from this process, the author describes the particulars of literary learning and student development from scant knowledge about an author or historical period to their growing mastery by the semester's end.

After mentioning several of the cognitive and emotional attributes required of students reading imaginative literature, the author summarises research in cognitive psychology on the teaching of imaginative literature, explaining why applying cognitive studies in college literature classes lags behind comparable studies in composition and history. He then asks (and answers) several fundamental questions:

1. How can expertise in literature teaching best be characterised? How does an expert professor engage students' meaning-making while simultaneously building their knowledge of authorial intentions, cultural information, genre characteristics, textual complexities, and thematic possibilities?

2. How does expertise in literature teaching get expressed over the whole semester? How does the expert teacher introduce novice students into the practices of authentic literary reading and interpretation, students whose behaviours then evolve over the course of a semester while the teacher remains adaptive to students' increasing capability to participate in proto-expert reading moves?

To help answer these questions, Knapp details how one university professor juggled the complex set of tasks required to teach difficult imaginative texts, and how this professor moved an entire class of students from scant beginnings to detailed knowledge and quasi-expert practice in a single semester.

Arranged into six groupings, chapters in this book are organised sequentially and identified via two dimensions: 1. the growing complexity of the texts and consequentially evolving demands on students; 2. the changing genre characteristics of the texts, from sonnets to Milton's more complex poetry and drama, to the epic, Paradise Lost. In important places during and at the end of each class period, Dr. Knapp summarises the major teaching considerations and developing student-learning patterns.

John V. Knapp is Professor of English, with a joint appointment in modern literature and in teacher education, at Northern Illinois University. He is also co-editor, with Kenneth Womack, of Reading the Family Dance: Family Systems Therapy & Literary Study, also published by the University of Delaware Press.
^ Education ^

(9780874130263)

SKU 9780874130263
Barcode # 9780874130263
Artist / Author John V. KNAPP

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