A friend about to teach his first course texted me the other day to ask, in essence, how hard course readings should be. In particular, when you’re teaching a political science course, should you be willing to assign best-of-breed articles to students who might not have the methodological or other technical skills to actually understand them?
There is no good answer to this question, and it depends crucially on two factors:
- How big is the gulf between students preparedness (and willingness to work) and the difficulty of the reading material?
- How much do you as an instructor plan to work to bridge that gap?
Instructors choosing course materials should be brutally honest with themselves about both questions, but especially the latter, if they care most about students ability to get something out of the classbesides, that is, the sheen of knowingness that good students are adept at performing.