August 28, 2008
The Value of Reading
Those of you familiar with The Teaching Professor newsletter know that we publish, monthly during the academic year with combined June-July and August September issues. We average about 35 unsolicited submissions per month, publishing between two and six of those. This summer we had more than 75 submissions! Despite the extra work of reviewing all those submission, I am happy that so many faculty see the newsletter as a viable outlet for their pedagogical scholarship and that more faculty may be reading and reflecting about their teaching.
One of the excellent submissions (not one we have selected to publish in the newsletter) is written by an education faculty member, Yatta Kanu, who teaches at the University of Manitoba. She writes about the difficulty of getting students to do the reading. Unfortunately we’ve done lots of articles on that topic here recently, but she includes a very persuasive list of reasons why the basic educators she’s teaching need to do pedagogical reading. The reasons are equally applicable to those teaching at the college level. She begins by observing, “despite our best efforts to get prospective teachers to understand teaching as an intellectual activity that is informed by scholarly research, learning to teach is still seen largely as the acquisition of a set of skills that facilitate the transfer of the subject matter of the disciplines to students.”
As for the reasons why educators need to read, she offers these four. “Scholarly readings that inform teaching in the larger sense (i.e., beyond the acquisition of subject matter knowledge and the technical skills for imparting such knowledge) play an important role in (a) introducing prospective teachers to the debates, issues and trends in their chosen disciplines; (b) challenging deeply entrenched conceptions of teaching that prospective teachers bring to their teacher preparation programs; (c) increasing prospective teachers’ awareness and understanding of the larger social, political, economic, and cultural contexts in which teaching occurs; and (d) helping prospective teachers understand teaching as an intellectual activity central to their professional work.”
I can’t think of a better set of reasons for college teachers to regularly find themselves in the literature on teaching and learning.