Summer School Experiments

Do you try out new ideas in your summer courses?

July 19, 2019

How does teaching in the summer differ from teaching during the rest of the year? 


Meg Palladino, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

My summers carry a heavy administrative load, so I don’t teach in the summer.  I do manage many faculty who are teaching. Most of them teach for additional compensation.  The pace of teaching a summer course is different. The courses are compressed, and meet for longer hours to make up for a summer session that is shorter than a traditional academic semester.  I think teaching in the summer space allows instructors to be a little more relaxed, a little more creative, and a little more experimental in what they do. 

Yves Salomon-Fernandez, president, Greenfield Community College

As President, teaching is one of the primary active ways that I stay connected to the broadest and most contemporary research in fields that directly relate to my work and those that are more secondary and tertiary. It is so much more engaging than simply reading, serving on a panel, or giving a keynote speech. It is also a great way to learn across generations. Teaching is excellent for scouting talent, and to identify what makes work meaningful and exciting for prospective employees.

Having taught research methods and advanced leadership in the summer, I have found the summer to be a great time to teach if students are taking only one course and have some time to decompress. Adult students enrolled in year-long programs also need time to decompress. Teaching graduate-level leadership and serving as a dissertation reader always provide such great learning opportunities. Typically, the students have had a broad spectrum of experiences and tenure within and outside of academia. They are passionate and so full of life with all that they are learning, and the ways that they are growing. To be part of their journey and to watch them excel during and after the class is over are gratifying.

Teaching is also a great way for us in administration to stay in touch with our core mission and develop deeper understanding and empathy for faculty whose primary job it is to teach. It helps to connect us with both the full-time faculty and the adjuncts who are juggling other responsibilities. Teaching is also one way to identify one’s blind spots and learning gaps. We don’t realize what we don’t know, at times, until we are exposed to it. Plus, the world is changing and has changed in so many ways since most of us completed our doctorates. Our students are changing. Teaching keeps administrators connected and grounded in so many ways.

Mary Churchill, Boston University, Boston, Mass.

It’s been a few years since I last taught in the summer but I when I taught in the summer, I loved it. The pace was different and both the students and I were more open to exploring new ideas. I remember one summer class that was held in a classroom where the air conditioning was completely unpredictable. When it wasn’t working, we moved and found new spaces - either outside in the shade or in an empty classroom or in part of the student center. Time felt less official and the students seemed to enjoy the summer classes more. Summer classes also attract students who are home for the summer taking classes that they can transfer back to their home institution. They are “visitors” of a sort, dropping in for one or two classes. This adds an interesting dynamic to the class discussions, bringing in new perspectives from students who are often willing to take more risks. 

Are you teaching this summer? How is it different from teaching during the traditional academic year?


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