The term “teaching effectiveness” had its heyday in the 80s and early 90s during that period when so much work on student ratings was being done. Its connection to evaluation activities remains and even end-of-course ratings are often thought of as measures of teaching effectiveness. Given its continuing importance, it is a term we should regularly revisit.
As an undergrad, I put myself through school waiting tables – a truly humbling experience that made me a better instructor. With a mission of 100% customer satisfaction and my livelihood on the line, the patron’s experience became my highest priority.
Taking that mindset into the classroom, I strove for 100% student satisfaction – within the confines of academic integrity, of course – and achieved great results. It turns out, oddly enough, that students love being important, valued, respected, and honored. And through the resulting faculty-student connection, students willingly transform into vessels of learning.
The quest to identify the ingredients, components, and qualities of effective instruction has been a long one. Starting in the 1930s, researchers sought to identify the common characteristics of good teachers. Since then, virtually everybody who might have an opinion has been asked, surveyed, or interviewed.
Humor, whether in the form of jokes, riddles, puns, funny stories, humorous comments or other humorous items, builds a bond between the instructor and students; bridging the student-teacher gap by allowing students to view the instructor as more approachable. A number of researchers have found that humor is instrumental in creating an inviting classroom environment, reducing stress, improving attention, enhancing learning, creating a positive emotional and social environment, reducing anxiety, enhancing self-esteem, and increasing self-motivation.
The argument persists: teaching and research are complementary—each in some synergistic way builds on and supports the other. Standing against the argument is an impressive, ever-growing array of studies that consistently fail to show any linkage between teaching effectiveness and research productivity. Because administrators have a vested interest in faculty being able to do both well, the two sides continue to exchange arguments and accusations in a debate that has grown old, tired, and terribly nonproductive.
Now that I’m one of those “senior” faculty, I hear a lot of digs about faculty who need to retire … deadwood, still standing but hopefully about to topple. The belief that the teaching effectiveness of most “seniors” declines is strong and persistent. Is it true or yet another one of those academic myths?
Now there’s an article title that gets your attention — at least it got mine. The article that follows this title (reference below) is a bit depressing, but the points it makes do constitute worthwhile reminders.