Are you getting ready for a new semester or preparing for a training event? Are you finding it challenging to select a design approach for a new course, to find ways to improve your current courses or your in-class lessons? Despite the long list of tasks you need to complete before you begin a new teaching experience, you should consider taking some time to ground yourself by identifying what you really believe about how people learn effectively and the role you play in helping them do that. I wanted to share a few strategies to help you do that more easily than you might think!
Tell a story
Start from what you know or believe to be true (don’t research – just respond). It’s best to find a partner or a small group to complete this reflective activity (based on a more extensive reflective exercise called the “metaphorical mirror” (Wagenheim, Clark, Crispo, 2009)).
First, ask yourself:
-What is a sport or activity or hobby that I do well and enjoy? Think back to when you first began. How did you get interested in the activity? How did you learn the basic skills? What helped you develop your abilities?
Next: document your answers – write a brief summary, record a narrative video or audio, create something visual – whatever helps you recall the experiences. Be prepared to share them with a colleague (or a small group).
Then: ask a colleague or your small group to listen as you share your story. Ask the listener(s) to listen carefully and ask clarifying questions to ensure they understand. Allow time for them to share their responses to your story and any additional insights that might provide a helpful perspective. You can take turns helping others to clarify their stories.
Afterwards: Revisit your story. Can you identify parts of the story that illuminate aspects of your current teaching approaches? Does it help you to see areas of your practice that you’d like to modify, improve or eliminate? Document your ideas about how this increased understanding can help you redesign your course, workshop or learning event.
Complete a teaching perspectives survey
Check out the Teaching Perspectives Inventory, developed by Dan Pratt and John Collins (originally instructors at UBC). Take time to complete a series of online questions (free) about your perspectives on teaching. The results of your answers are graphed across five different perspectives: Transmission, Apprenticeship, Developmental, Nurturing and Social Reform. You’ll receive a brief report and interpretation (by email) and you can learn more by exploring the website or purchasing their book.
Suggestion for use: While it’s an interesting snapshot of your perspectives on teaching, you can gain more from the inventory by using it to identify areas of teaching you want to improve or change. Test out your new approaches or modifications and then take the inventory again. You may be surprised by how quickly your changed practices create differences in your TPI results.
The TPI can be a useful monitoring instrument and help you track and be more aware of the choices you make when you teach or develop courses.
Review Seven Principles of Good Practice in Higher Education
Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson reviewed research from various universities in the United States and distilled the findings into the well-known “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.” The principles are:
– Encourage contact between students and faculty
– Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students
– Encourage active learning
– Give prompt feedback
– Emphasize time on task
– Communicate high expectations
– Respect diverse talents and ways of learning
These principles still seem relevant and meaningful today. You may find it useful to reflect on how many of these principles you employ in your teaching practice and/or course design.
Write a statement of teaching philosophy.
If you’ve completed some form of teacher training or completed recent job applications, you may already have one. If you don’t, here’s some guidelines for how to compose one: Teaching Philosophy Statements (from University of Guelph).
In general, statements (usually 1-2 typed pages) include:
– a statement of your values and beliefs about teaching and learning;
– an identification of different strategies or practices that demonstrate how you see your beliefs reflected in your teaching or course development;
– a list of your future objectives in terms of your professional development
– a conclusion that highlights your commitment to your professional practice
Suggestion for further development: You might consider augmenting your written statement with some form of visual – a collage, an interactive presentation (brief) or a short video. It’s worth creating various forms as each may provide additional insights into your beliefs and how you apply them in practice. The teaching philosophy statement can (and should) be revisited periodically. I also suggest that you revisit them when you change the subject or type of teaching you do (e.g., switching to online or blended forms of teaching).
A closing thought – if you make significant changes in the way you teach (modality, technologies, subject areas, diversity of learners, country, etc.), you may find that your reflection on your values about how people learn may shift and expand. Mapping or charting the journey of your professional development can be a fascinating challenge and provide you with both personal and professional satisfaction.
Center for Instructional Technology and Training, University of Florida (June 30, 2017) Chickering and Gamson: 7 Rules for Undergraduate Education, retrieved from http://citt.ufl.edu/tools/chickering-and-gamson-7-rules-for-undergraduate-education/
Pratt, Daniel D., and John B. Collins, Teaching Perspectives Inventory (website) retrieved from http://www.teachingperspectives.com/tpi/
Pratt, Daniel D., John B. Collins, Sandra Jarvis Selinger, (2001) Development and Use of The Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI), AERA 2001, retrieved from https://cvm.msu.edu/assets/documents/Faculty-and-Staff/Development_and_Use_of_the_Teaching_Pers.pdf
University of Calgary, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, Sample Statements of Teaching Philosophy, retrieved from http://ucalgary.ca/taylorinstitute/resources/teaching-philosophies-dossiers/sample-teaching-philosophy-statements
University of Guelph, Graduate Student Development, Teaching Philosophy Statements, retrieved from http://opened.uoguelph.ca/student-resources/teaching-philosophy-statements?_mid_=1073
Wagenheim, Gary; Clark, Robert; Crispo, Alexander W. (2009) International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, v20 n3 p503-509, retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ869334.pdf