Peer Teaching through the Years

We extended our Peer Teaching application deadline to November 8! If you have an expertise and want to share it in your own classroom, get in touch with us before filling out your application. We are very excited to see what classes will be proposed by undergraduates for the upcoming semester.

Giving in to a bit of nostalgia, we went through the past few years of peer-taught courses and compiled some great course descriptions. Based on the unique and innovative classes offered over the past 3 years, we know that we’ll have a fantastic line-up of peer-taught courses this spring!


The Art of Improvisation
Taught by Rachel Shoenbrun (A13) and Adam Bangser (A14)

Do you love to make people laugh? Are you spontaneous? Do you love to tell stories?

This course teaches the exciting art of improvisational comedy. Students in this course will explore the basics of improv performance, including scene building, agreement (“yes, and”), basic narrative skills, and physical characterization. At the same time, we will be reading important improv texts, discussing improvisational theory, and relating its principles to our daily lives. Our work will be inspired by the teachings of the improvisational experts and theorists such as Keith Johnstone, Del Close, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler (founder of the improv troupe My Mother’s Flea Bag at Boston College). The structure of this course will be highly interactive and discussion-based, with field trips, guest speakers, and group performance. No experience necessary.


Architecture/Music: Sound and the Built Environment
Taught by Amelia Wellers (A13)

As Goethe once observed, “I call architecture frozen music . . .; the influence that flows upon us from architecture is like that from music.” Spaces speak—are you listening?

Sound is an omnipresent influence within our environment, but very few people actually listen to what they hear. This class will explore the many dimensions of how sound interacts within the built environment, exploring topics including archaeoacoustics, aural architecture, space and sound analysis, music and performance, visual art, film, hands-on sound production, and as many other applications as could possibly be deemed reasonable. We will take field trips to our own Granoff Music Center as well as to Boston Symphony Hall and engage in guest lectures given by some of the leading Boston area acousticians. Informal studio sessions and conceptual discussions invite students to synthesize their own diverse experiences in the soundscape of our world. The ultimate goal is to take creative license in forming your own perceived “point of audition.”


Game Strategy
Taught by Aaron Bartel (A12)

When playing Monopoly Scrabble or Clue, do you just go by the rules? Or have you ever thought about the strategy that’s involved? This course will explore the skills and understanding that’s necessary to actually win common household games. We will focus on the strategy implemented in these games by employing game theory, economics, statistics, and balance of power dynamics. Classes will consist of an examination of a certain strategic element within the context of a game, and then the exercising of that strategy in class by playing the game in question. Games explored will include students’ choices along with the following: Texas Hold’em, Risk, Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, Dominion, Hearts, Spades, President, Bridge, Connect 4, Checkers, Chinese Checkers, Chess, Scrabble.


Alpinismo: The Culture and Science of Mountain Climbing
Taught by Nick Levin (A11) and Ryan Stolp (A11)

Why do humans feel the need to travel into and immerse themselves in the highest and harshest environments on the planet?

This course presents the history of alpinism and how it has developed into one of the most extreme endeavors humans have undertaken. It will also include the practical skills of rock, ice, and mountaineering, as well as theoretical, philosophical and alpine environmentalist perspectives. Through skills practice, presentations, guest lecturers, reading responses, discussions, and a final expedition planning project, students will thoroughly explore the art of mountaineering.


Psychology, Magic, and Performance
Taught by Marcell Babai (A11)

This course will introduce students to an exploration of the psychology that makes magic work and makes it an entertaining art. As such, it combines study with performance.While specific techniques will be taught, the focus of the class is an analysis of how the techniques and psychological cues work together. To further the understanding of performance we will also briefly examine the history and evolution of technique, as well as examine how these concepts apply to other non-performance situations. In addition to a discussion of relevant theory, throughout the semester students will be preparing to perform short, close-up magic routines.


Investigations in Hypnosis
Taught by Aliza Howitt (A12)

Have you ever gone to a hypnotist show and seen your friends cluck like chickens? Maybe you thought it was a fluke or wrote it off to voodoo science. Well, not so! Hypnosis is a legitimate field that is often neglected by mainstream psychology curriculums.

This class is here to rectify that. In this course students will take a closer look at how hypnosis actually works. We will cover a variety of materials, providing students with an intimate knowledge of the history and science behind hypnosis, as well as an understanding of possible clinical applications and contemporary research on the subject.


HBO’s The Wire: TV and the American Inner City
Taught by Alex Hart (A11)

HBO’s The Wire has been called “a display … that must be considered alongside the best literature and filmmaking in the modern era.”

Through close analysis of of key episodes, this course will use The Wire to explore the societal and institutional processes that shape and influence the lives of inner-city Americans. We will journey through the first four of The Wire’s five seasons, examining the politics, societal influences, and institutional practices that affect the lives of the urban poor.

Readings will accompany viewings of the program, examining topics such as community policing, the economics of drug trade, the loss of jobs in America, underrepresented subcultures, and undocumented labor. The different academic viewpoints will provide a view into a disenfranchised community, located in the center of the American city. Participation and discussion will provide the fuel for the course.

 

Peer Teaching at the ExCollege

Since 1967, the ExCollege has provided Tufts undergraduates with the opportunity to design their own course and teach fellow Jumbos through the Peer Teaching program. Peer-taught courses often revolve around current issues; allowing for dynamic classroom spaces that make students re-think and re-shape the way they view the world. Currently, the ExCollege is on the look-out for Peer Teachers for Spring 2014. If you are a student and want to share your expertise in your own course, please apply! Before you submit your application, please get in touch with us (excollege@tufts.edu or 617-627-3384) with your course idea. The application is available on our main website. The deadline for applications is November 1.

Peer-taught course topics over the past 46 years continually morph based on changing student needs and contemporary issues. From 1970′s course “The Draft” to 2012′s class “Game Strategy,” exceptional peer instructors challenge their students while igniting dialogue and sparking ideas.

For a glimpse into the world of Peer Teaching, our intrepid summer intern Benji Cohen (A11 and former ExCollege student board member) put together a snapshot of the Spring 2007 course “The Future is Lost: The TV Series as Cultural Phenomenon” taught by Chadwick Matlin (A07) and Ed Kalafarski (A06).

The Course: The Future is Lost: The TV Series as Cultural Phenomenon, Spring 2007

The Peer-Teachers: Chadwick Matlin (A07) and Ed Kalafarski (A06) used ABC’s smash-hit drama “Lost” as an academic text to analyze the future of media and the intersection between technology, media, and economics.

Lost and Society: The class explored how the show has become a pop culture sensation, but equally importantly how ABC markets and positions the show in its television lineup. In addition, the online community devoted to “Lost” demonstrated, in Chad and Ed’s eyes, a significant turning point in the relationship between media and society. As Chad remarked, “the Internet is bringing people together to deal with something that is usually referred to as just a hobby, but here it’s becoming what people do when they come home from work for three hours at night.” Chad marveled that “Lost” mobilized “people in our reality based on a fictional show,” and attempted to teach his students that such mobilization was targeted by ABC executives because showbiz, after all, is a business.

Reception: Chad and Ed’s course received local, national, and even international attention and acclaim. Chad and Ed’s class was featured in the Boston Globe, USA Today, the Huffington Post, and NPR,  “Lost” producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse caught wind of the class from California and had a conference call to answer students’ questions, and Chad was interviewed by BBC radio.

Reflection: Chad told the Tufts Daily that in the end “Lost” was an entertaining means to an academic end. He said, “we’re instructing students on the new media landscape, and what it means to watch TV in the 21st century in the Internet-dominated world that we live in.” As ExCollege Director Robyn Gittleman told the Globe, Chad and Ed created “a very thoughtful syllabus that explored all aspects of the show. . . . It had many, many layers with different educational goals.”

Where Are They Now: After graduating from Tufts, Chad was an associate editor at TheBigMoney.com, Slate’s business site. He has written for Fortune.com, New York, The Atlantic, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Columbia Journalism Review, and Talking Points Memo. He is currently a senior editor for Reuters Opinion, Reuters’ online commentary arm. Ed received a Masters in Computer Science from Brown University in 2009. He has worked for Google since 2007, focusing on the Google Maps app. In addition, he was the project manager and lead developer for Slate’s “Map the Candidates” tool during the 2008 presidential election.