My Authentic Teaching Self

I’ve never taught a class before nor do I currently teach. I just know that if my career path leads me into the academic world of research, I better be prepared to teach, and do it well! I showed interest in wanting to gain some experience by teaching and I have been told multiple times that having teaching experience isn’t necessary as a researcher, even if I end up at a university! Maybe some people whose passions lie in research might agree, but this always frustrates me because I have had some BAD classroom experiences in my life and definitely don’t want this cycle to continue. This is where Sarah E. Deel’s prologue really resonated with me, how she talked about receiving very little guidance about teaching during graduate school. Even if I am not in a “classroom”, as a researcher I will likely be a mentor and having some of these teaching skills is very important to me. Anyway, I knew I had to figure out the foundation of my teaching style & voice so here I am taking this Contemporary Pedagogy class as an elective, although I know that my authentic teaching self will evolve over time.

Like Sarah E. Deel discussed in her paper, I often think back to the teacher’s I’ve had in my lifetime, the good and the bad, and try to figure out what made them that way and how I could use that information to become a better teacher. The discussions we’ve had and ideas we’ve shared in class so far have really been helping me visualize how I would want my classroom to look. For instance I want to implement an assessment techniques that would not require grades. Some of the ideas I really like are things like focusing on doing more experiential and mindful learning in the class that would help remove the wrong type of motivation that come with grades. I still struggle when I think about how I would get students to be interested in the learning if I am for instance teaching a required course or teaching a class of 100 students. It’s really hard for me describe myself as a teacher because I just haven’t been in that role yet, and I don’t want to limit myself to a description I set for myself now. I think every class that I teach will be different. Until I get to that point, I hope the one or two guest lectures I might get the chance to do, I can practice some of these concepts and start to build my authentic teaching self.

No More Grades

I’ve never really liked grades as a student. I remember in one stats class, I rushed through an exam and miscalculated something, although the formula was right. I got partial credit and I thought about how silly that was. I clearly understood the subject matter, and outside of a test situation I would have had time to check my work. I absolutely hated how easy it was for your GPA to drop from one bad class, but your GPA couldn’t go past a 4.0 no matter how well you did. But still, I was motivated by grades… in my mind my entire future depended on it!

As I started doing this weeks readings and watching videos, I initially thought about how grades motivated me to do “better” and how they might be useful for those it helps. But then I came across a point from Alfie Kohn’s “The Case Against Grades” about how motivation through grades can undermine the true purpose of learning. I also really liked the idea brought up in Dan Pink’s TedX talk about how money can only be used as motivation. He says if you pay people enough so that they are not thinking about money, they will think more about the work. Just like that I think grades can motivate people, just like some amount of money can motivate people, but in both cases it’s not the right type of motivation to foster creativity and mindfulness in what you are doing because you are not focused on the right thing. This sentence also came to mind from Kohn’s paper… “the more students are led to focus on how well they’re doing, the less engaged they tend to be with what they’re doing.” This all ties back to last week in class and our discussion around mindful learning versus mindlessness.

I really think I would like to incorporate these ideas into my teaching philosophy and teach without grades (or at least diluted grades). Kohn has some great ideas about providing qualitative feedback to students instead and not falling into the trap of categorizing students still. I wonder though if teaching in this way too late in the game (college level) is too late for students to become mindful learners. I also think about my ability to apply this concept to the fullest as a teacher, since I have been brought up by grades. I hope I can!

Moving Forward with Tech in Classrooms

Based on my simple blog layout, it may not look I get a lot of enjoyment out of this digital platform (but I will get to sprucing it up soon hopefully!). However, I believe this medium is powerful in getting across points that are difficult to communicate otherwise. Always tinkering with technology, I am eager to think about how I can use various programs to add efficiency and creativity to any project that I’m working on. From my personal experience, technology has a habit of enhancing my learning and I think it has big role in our education system, both now and in the future.

As with any teaching method, I believe technology can be a great asset in the classroom if used in an effective manner. For instance, you can’t just replace lecture with a video of a person talking; that will simply work poorly. Instead maybe use it to form a collaboration/discussion board where students discuss ideas. I really like the point made in the NPR article, “Laptops And Phones In The Classroom: Yea, Nay Or A Third Way?”  That is, “if your students are distracted, improve your teaching”. We are educating a generation that will use even more advanced technologies. We definitely should incorporate it in classroom or even provide the opportunity to those without equal access to technologies at home.

 

Thoughts on Networked Learning

I have to be honest and say that I didn’t know what networked learning was nor have I ever heard of it before reading the assignments for this week. After doing a little research of my own as well, I think I understand networked learning to be a type of collaborative learning that uses social media such as blogging on Twitter. This got me thinking about how my lab and others currently share knowledge gained from research in the academic setting. Most of our publications are read by scientists and researchers through journals and only limited to the audience of that journal (so it may not reach disciplines outside that particular field of study). I started to think about how Using public social media I like Twitter and blogging could potentially lead to more people receiving knowledge gained from your research, spreading this information and expanding on it. After this reflection, I feel students can highly benefit from practicing networked learning in the classroom setting. I really like the analogy from the baby George video of how the whole class climbed this mountain together each time pulling the whole class onto a plateau before going to the next assignment. I agree with the speaker when he said how we’re always talking about the real world on the outside but we need to start bringing the real world to the inside and networked/collaborative learning is a way to do that. Take for example doing a dissertation. We are encouraged to develop and conduct our own projects and write our own chapters/publications where very little of any type of collaboration is involved. In the “real world” research is now moving towards networking and collaboration and grants/publications are regarded as higher quality when a variety of researchers are included.