University of California, Santa Barbara professors Linda Adler-Kassner and John Majewski spoke to Georgetown faculty about the different methods of utilizing innovative ways of thinking in the classroom in Lauinger Library Monday afternoon.

The event was organized by Director of Writing Curriculum Initiatives Sherry Linkon and was sponsored by the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship, a program that offers tools and resources to facilitate learning for students and faculty.

Adler-Kassner and Majewski discussed the importance of understanding threshold concepts, which are unique lenses used to analyze a specific discipline, so teachers can learn how to teach complicated ideas to undergraduate students.

Majewski and Adler-Kassner applied their ideas in their respective history and writing courses at UC Santa Barbara. Adler-Kassner’s English students were all in Majewski’s history survey course, so the two collaborated when teaching the concepts.

Both professors emphasized the importance of identifying, understanding and applying threshold concepts in their subjects.

“One of the things we teach students [is] good taste,” Majewski said. “We are teaching them the values of how historians evaluate arguments and that, yes, there are different interpretations of history, but there are certain evidentiary standards that historians use to evaluate arguments and competing narratives.”

The event was part of a series of lectures that will contribute to an ongoing discussion concerning the revision of the general education writing requirements on campus, according to Linkon.

“I wanted them to share the notion of threshold concepts and to give us an example of what happens when faculty in an academic discipline – a traditional discipline like history – start talking with people in writing as a discipline: What [do] they learn from each other?” Linkon said. “From my sense, just seeing what happened in someone else’s teaching can help all of us feel like … this would be a worthwhile thing to do.”

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