Understood in this way, education at Reed is an eminently practical activity because it gives students systematic and ongoing experience in the actual practice of making and evaluating arguments. What better way to understand a set of analytic tools, concepts, and theories than actually to engage in the analysis itself?

Conferences in the humanities and social sciences have their natural counterparts in Reed labs. Pedagogy in the laboratory sciences at Reed has long been heavily oriented toward undergraduate research. From very early on, students are required to do the kinds of things that biologists, chemists, psychologists, and physicists actually do; the culmination of this is the senior thesis, where original hypotheses are tested with original data using the standard professional research tools of the discipline.


How then does the professor function in such a student-driven context? Presumably, different faculty members come to different conclusions about this. I can only speak for myself. Since that day 21 years ago, I have come to think of my role in two ways, as an agenda-setter and as a discussant.






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