What’s the best route for improving your teaching (post-thesis)?

I’ve just been asked the following question via Twitter

as someone who wants to improve their teaching (post-thesis) what is the best route?

I was going to tweet a pithy and humourous response, but I’m not that good at pithy and humourous, especially in 140 characters. Also, it’s a more important question that that. 140 chars is not enough. So to the blog.

Also, 1 voice is not enough. I don’t have the answer, I’m not sure one exists. So while I might argue that the answer below is pretty good, what do you think? What would your advice be?

To some extent I think Wendy is using her blog to think about and implement what works for her.

The rest of this post is my advice. It’s what worked for me.

Reflect

I used this quote recently and I think it sums up my long-term perspective

Master teachers are not born; they become. They become primarily by developing a habit of mind, a way of looking critically at the work they do, developing the courage to recognise faults, and struggling to improve (Common, 1989)

All the really good teachers I’ve known have been reflective. They find problems, develop solutions that are somewhat informed and appropriate to their context, try them, evaluate them and start all over again.

As part of doing this you need to pay attention to interesting and useful ways of evaluating what you are doing. Especially what the students are thinking of what you are doing. You have to value what they say and be seen to take action. This has to extend to during term, as well as after.

In a scholarly way

It’s not enough to reflect on your own. Even with the best of intentions you can get biased about what is going on. You have to build on the work or ideas of other people and contribute your work and ideas back to the community. Another quote I used recently (my emphasis)

The Boyer approach to
scholarship based on an understanding of the communal basis of all scholarly activity: that scholarship by its very nature is a public rather than private activity; that it is open to critique and evaluation by others; and that a field of study is progressed through the scholarly activity of building new ideas which are then open to the same processes of public scrutiny. (Wood and Friedel, 2008)

It’s really helpful to publish what you are doing. You get peer review and you get some kudos for publication – depending on your context. Plus if it’s a conference, you’ll usually see other ideas.

Be diverse

Don’t limit your reading or ideas to the usual or single areas of literature. Look broadly at lots of different areas. Purposely look at ideas that you disagree with or find less than interesting.

Ask for and provide help

No-one can do it all, though some of us kill ourselves trying to. Develop and build connections with other people. Get involved in a community, but not necessarily a tightly connected one. Social media is really starting to make this one easier.

Develop your extended tools

I’m taken with the idea of connectivism. One of the differences with other learning theories is that learning doesn’t just occur in the brain, learning/knowledge also resides in external devices and people. In recent times, I’ve found organising my PLE and leveraging many of the technical tools have helped improve my ability to both learn and know.

I can never remember in detail everything I learn or even think. But with my blog making my thinking visible and various other software tools (e.g. spotlight searching on my Mac) I’m able to expand what I can learn and know.

Be critical or cynical

Don’t take anything at face value. Question it. You can’t simply translate ideas from one context to another. You have to figure out if they will work in your context.

Find what works for you

In the end, however you do it, you have to find something that works for you. That you can maintain. The above works for me. It may not work for you.

References

Common, D. (1989). “Master teachers in higher education: A matter of settings.” The Review of Higher Education 12(4): 375-387.

Wood, D. and M. Friedel (2008). Peer review of online learning and teaching: New technologies, new challenges. ASCILITE’2008. Melbourne: 1126-1135.

One thought on “What’s the best route for improving your teaching (post-thesis)?

  1. Pingback: Improving My Teaching « static id

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