top of page
  • Writer's pictureBethann Garramon Merkle

Should have cited: Poetics of teaching

Updated: Mar 27

I’m an omnivorous reader [1], and as I progress through one project and then the next, I regularly bump into essays, peer-reviewed literature, comics, etc., that relate closely to past threads of interest, my previous publications, and even languishing projects I someday mean to return to. I recently read just such a paper, and it got me thinking.

The paper is titled: "The poetics of teaching."

“Like poets, effective teachers communicate ‘a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience’ […] Good teaching, like good poetry, pushes against the cutting edge of human experience, opening our eyes to fresh perspectives on the world. Bad teaching, like bad poetry, remains stale, unimaginative, and mind-numbingly predictable.”

~Helen Sword, 2007

Sword’s central contention is that literary studies (and other humanities disciplines) have a central strength: “interpretation and criticism of various kinds of texts, including cultural artefacts (sic) such as films, advertisements, and visual art.” She describes how instructors demonstrate the scholarly work of interpretation and criticism, and the disciplines' expectations that students learn to do the same through discussions and written work (essays, primarily).

In essence, she describes the training I received as an Environmental Studies major who waffled between that major, environmental engineering, and several art majors and minors during my 4.5 years as a first-generation undergrad. As an environmental studies and art student, I learned a vital way of looking at, understanding, responding to, and even pushing back against the material and intellectual creations of the world. This understanding and skill set have been professionally valuable and personally meaningful for me many times since. And, I think they have real bearing on what we're getting wrong teaching STEM in higher ed today.

Note: If you see a prompt to subscribe to keep reading, you can just subscribe for free!

Want to read more?

Subscribe to to keep reading this exclusive post.


Couldn’t Load Comments
It looks like there was a technical problem. Try reconnecting or refreshing the page.
bottom of page