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Reflections on Introduction to African American Studies (1)

Fall 2012: Teaching it for the first time

· teaching,African American,Syracuse University

Fall 2012 was, for me, an introduction to the US education model. Coming from a different educational background, this was a period of adjustment. I was assigned to Dr. Kishi Animashaun Ducre, who taught the course from a sociological perspective, focusing on food as the method of discussion about African American Studies, and by extension culture. This course is cross-listed with Introduction to Anthropology, and as such there were two distinct set of students. The approach to this course was basic regurgitation of information. I felt that there was no real understanding of the information, and students tended to repeat content verbatim. I was advised that I should be cognizant of the level of the course.

The course structure utilized movies, music, literature and food demonstrations to illustrate the history of African Americans. I found the combination exciting. However, I wanted to inject my own pedagogical style to motivating students beyond the basic content. I learned that the expectations of students are set by the professor from the introduction of the class. I learned that the habit of this form of teaching also creates complacency. I learned that this style is the most effective in establishing attainable objectives and producing evaluative results. Having students tell us what they have read is a way to gauge that students understand the work, and this is the first step in facilitating learning experience.

While I felt that the course was always in the first step of content understanding, I believe that this methodology at this level enables the engagement of a range of content in a limited time. Learning to appreciate this was difficult; however, I was able to adjust to this form of teaching/facilitation. I was cautioned for my hard grading during the mid-semester, but as we progressed, the evaluation process became more systematic for me.