Getting your bearings

Not in full-time education, bu still interested in learning

My household is full of people involved in education, either as students or as teachers. However it’s only this academic year that my (much) better half has moved into a regular teaching role, after years of research-only activity.

It’s been great to see how she has moved from anxiety about what to do to reflection on how best to make her classes work and how it all marries up to her research activity, not least because it’s also given me an opportunity to reflect on what I do too.

Indeed, it was this process itself that was perhaps the most stimulating, since it highlighted one difficulty for a new teacher, namely what – practically – to do.

Training programmes are typically on-the-go, using your classroom experience to stimulate reflection on pedagogy and learning and theory-level stuff. But how to get to a point of being confident about stepping into that classroom in the first place?

What seems to be missing is a simple ‘how to’ guide that offers practical advice on really mundane stuff, like dealing with questions, or designing your first lecture, or what to keep in mind for your first session.

All the stuff you have internalised from your teaching, basically.

Looking around, I don’t see a resource like this, which surprises me (and also makes me wonder if I’m just looking in the wrong places): we all have to start somewhere.

In my case, a long time ago, it came from a lot of watching people teach/try to teach me and reflecting on what did and didn’t work. But that’s not a normal path, I’m aware.

Maybe you came to this some other way, in which case I’d love to hear about it, or indeed anything like the resource I describe.

This comes back to some of the themes we touched on in Baltimore, namely lowering costs to entry to better pedagogy: it’s as true for ‘basic’ stuff as it is for fancier approaches like active learning. One reason why teaching doesn’t have the same rep as research is precisely that we don’t institute the same level of training in the latter.

But that might another post for another day.

One Reply to “Getting your bearings”

  1. I understand your frustration. As someone who teaches in secondary education, I can confirm the opposite is true. A vast majority of secondary education is being told the right way to teach. There are so many resources and guides for high school teachers to use for their lessons, but almost nothing exists like this for the university level.

    I know certain publishing companies have put their energy into developing their LMS and other educational software so that it can guide your instruction for you.

    As an educator myself, I compare sitting in university lectures to how I teach now. They are completely different. If I stood up and lectured to my high schoolers the way my university professors did, my administrators would not be happy.

    I suppose designing a training for professors to learn how to run their courses takes time…something most educators are already very short on.

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