Teaching and Learning Philosophy

I have taught a variety of courses ranging from sixteen-student seminars to over two-hundred student lecture courses and at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Before teaching at Dartmouth I taught in the English Department at Indiana University. At Dartmouth, I teach for numerous departments and programs including the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric, the English Department, DartmouthX, and the Masters of Arts in the Liberal Studies (MALS) Program.

Student Comments on My Teaching

"Professor Dobson was an amazing teacher—simply the best one can ask for. He designed an incredibly interesting and well-organized course on a relevant topic. Professor Dobson struck the perfect balance in terms of workload, made sure that there was never a dull moment in class, and got everyone excited and engaged." — Student Comment, Winter 2015 (WRIT-5).
"I thought that Professor Dobson did an excellent job of bringing theoretic debates into our conversations and of trying to make them accessible to the class. As with Professor Pease, he strive to make himself a resource for students which I greatly appreciated. Several times during the term, Professor Dobson brought in images and archival materials that expanded our discussions to the history and reception of the novels, which I hope he will continue to do." — Student Comment, Winter 2016 (English 52.04)

(Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

Recent Course Descriptions

Talks from Catalyzing Community Symposium

I organized this two-day symposium at Dartmouth in October 2015 to explore teaching and learning on digital platforms, including Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). I gave opening remarks and a talk titled "Keywords, Concepts, Modularity: Approaching the College Classroom after MOOCs".

Teaching Philosophy

As a teacher of English courses in American literature, I want to engage my students with interesting and difficult materials that will enable them to read and think critically about literary history. I like to think dialectically. In my teaching, I always attempt to present conflicts between what would otherwise be irreconcilable methodologies, subject positions, or object choices. I take this idea mostly from Max Weber, who I often teach as the final readings in my courses in an attempt to expose my own pedagogical method to my students. When Weber reflects on our shared vocation of teaching, he puts forth the claim that the teacher must, if nothing else, demonstrate that there are stakes to taking a position while simultaneously stressing the necessity of making a choice.

Of course one must prepare a hospitable environment for staging such conflicts; therefore, I like to front-end my courses with examples or models of sharp, critical thinking. Often pairing readings that present radically different methods of reading a text or other cultural object, I attempt to familiarize my students with the protocols of academic inquiry and demonstrate the analytical moves that produce good arguments. As the term progresses I tend to open up the space for inquiry by lessening the dialectical pressure and by undergoing a process of transformation from a framer of arguments to a full participant in the discussion.

© Copyright by James E. Dobson