art of teaching
Mark Twain once remarked that “All generalizations are false, including this one.” It seems that we are in a time—an educational crossroads of sorts—when teaching is overgeneralized to the point where it can be difficult for professionals to have meaningful conversations.
Tired descriptors such as “sage on the stage” and “guide on the side” have permeated the pedagogical literature for more than two decades now even though they greatly oversimplify what really takes place in the college classroom. Most teaching occurs on a continuum between these two extremes. But now the term “lecture” is equated with using didactic instruction and nothing else. It is regularly blamed for a multitude of pedagogical problems in the academy. Articles in various educational journals regularly associate teaching with telling and continue to recommend that this traditional method be completely abandoned in favor of more student-centered strategies that promote active learning.
One. Good teaching is as much about passion as it is about reason. It’s about motivating students not only to learn, but teaching them how to learn, and doing so in a manner that is relevant, meaningful and memorable. It’s about caring for your craft, having a passion for it and conveying that passion to everyone, but mostly importantly to your students.
While conducting a class, even though teachers may be doing all or most of the talking, students communicate important nonverbal messages. They communicate these messages through facial expressions, body postures, and how they say what they say, as well as what actions they do or the skills they attempt to perform. Both novice and expert teachers see the same student responses, but expert teachers see in those responses something very different than novices see.
Two years ago, a midcareer colleague in the mathematics department sent around an e-mail to all faculty at our college, inviting us to read a book with her. And as simply as that, a teaching circle was formed.
A teaching circle, the term we use at my institution, is simply a group of faculty interested in discussing teaching at regular intervals, ideally over food. As my colleague said, laughing, at our first meeting, “I need a support group, and everyone needs lunch!”…