February 1, 2011, by Teaching at Nottingham

Katharina Lorenz on teaching critical skills

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Katharina Lorenz: “There’s an advantage looking at Classics to actually practice some of the analytical skills one needs to understand cultures better.

“I think this is one of the real essence of doing something like Classics is to force people to be very, to scrutinise what they see in the world around them and to think about it in a critical fashion.

“So one of the things I do a lot in seminars and lectures, especially with very early stage students is to force them to engage with a visual object. And most of the time what happens is they see something and say, oh this is this, and then they move on. But it’s actually to try to force them to take a step back and to really look what is actually going on in front of them. And some people struggle with that, and it takes a long time to come to the point of saying, OK, yeah, I see something in the first second, but this doesn’t mean I actually understand what I see. I need to have a certain framework of questions I take to the object I see in order to understand what it means and what it could be all about.

“So because we have certain questions we choose a specific method, just like a biologist would choose a particular type of experiment in order to further some understanding. And what I want to teach people is to be very aware that the type of method one uses has an impact on the answers one gets. So to get away from this idea that you can look at an utterance of culture and say, oh yeah, this is this, or yeah, I can understand this, this is a pretty statue, and now I move on. But to actually try and understand how that works within it’s cultural environment. And also to understand that if you ask a specific question you will get a specific answer. And sometimes you might have to ask more questions, and sometimes the interesting thing is that you might not get an answer, which doesn’t mean that the question is wrong but, it might just mean that you need to reassess the types of material you look at. So it’s this type of thing I like to train people in, because I think that’s at the core of any type of research in the Humanities but it’s certainly also the key transferrable skill you could get out of studying something like Classics.”

Katharina Lorenz
School of Humanities

One of a series of interviews with staff that contributed to the development of the Teaching at Nottingham handbook.

Posted in Students' academic developmentTeachingThe role of the teacher