Different disciplines, different teaching? 

Nothing frustrates me more than the claim that “what I teach is too difficult (or different) for [good teaching] to work”. First, the claim assumes that one set of ideas is somehow inherently more difficult to teach/learn than another set of ideas. Second, the claim is dismissive of the tremendous amount of research we have in support of effective teaching generally. Indeed, if what we know about effective teaching doesn’t apply across content areas, then I’d argue we don’t know very much at all. 

Students bring their prior experiences, their misconceptions, and their various developmental levels to any learning situation. Whether I am trying to teach students about white privilege, about the cause of the seasons, or what Moby Dick means, they (and we) will be confronted with similar issues: resistance, disbelief, emotional unease, etc. Given these similar student responses, why would similar strategies not be effective?  

Does this mean we should all look the same or teach the same way? Yes & no. Of course differences across content areas will be apparent, but at a deep level some commonality must exist because learning (from a mechanistic/biological perspective) does not happen differently just because the stuff to be learned changed. So, find a great teacher in a different content area, watch them and ask, “what does this look like in my content area?”  

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