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L&T performances (Credit: Andrea Riba)

Students from all corners of the globe arrived in Pankow this past August to participate in a two-and-a-half week writing intensive called the Language and Thinking program. These academic exercises were at times trying, new, or unusual, but certainly left an impression on students and teachers alike. Over dinner in the cafeteria, we chatted about the nature of the program and student’s reactions. A special thanks to Ido Nahari, Hanna Bargheer, Hans Stauffacher, and (of course) the graduates of this year’s L&T program.

 

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“Free writing” at Bard College Berlin’s L&T

“Free writing” at Bard College Berlin’s L&T

Since 1981, Bard College in Annandale on Hudson, NY, has had a unique summer course, mandatory for all incoming students, called “Language and Thinking.” After joining the Bard network in 2011, Bard College Berlin came to adopt the Bard concept in 2013 and so this year’s freshmen were the first ones to experience the program as put into practice by professors James HarkerMatthias Hurst and Ulrike Wagner. For three weeks, students had to read and think, but mostly write a lot. Most of the writing tasks demanded and focused heavily on creativity. Thus the first-years came to realize that the aim of  L&T––to create a smooth transition to college education––is pursued not by mimicking the exact format of university-level courses, but rather through a somewhat different and more openly-creative class structure.

The Bard Berlin program was very similar to the program at Bard College, says James Harker, the coordinator of the Bard College Berlin L&T program. We used many of the same readings, techniques, and assignments. One difference, though, is that L&T at Bard Berlin was taught by regular members of the faculty. At Bard, mostly guests from elsewhere come to campus to teach L&T. This might produce some differences. The Bard L&T faculty bring in a variety of perspectives and styles. The Bard Berlin L&T faculty, however, might tend to shape the L&T experience so that it fits with the first year experience a bit more.

The purpose of the program is to help students read and write better, and thus to prepare them for the academic work to come. Although the writing that the L&T participants did was quite different from the one that students would be required to do at Bard College Berlin or any other college, the methods used to encourage students in their writing were constructed so that they would enhance their writing skills overall, regardless of the writing format.

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