It used to be called team teaching, but that term is now used less often to describe the collaboration of colleagues when they jointly teach the same course. Multiple instructors may be involved in the course, each delivering a freestanding module; or two instructors may do the course together, each in class every day with all course activities and assignments integrated. And there are variations of each of these models.
Today’s classrooms require that instructors possess competencies for teaching all students. Robust instructional strategies and culturally sensitive curricula are critical, but more important is an instructor who is sensitive and responsive to the unique differences of each student. Recognizing the need to strengthen specific competencies to reach and teach all students requires an understanding of new ideas and a willingness to view instruction through varied cultural lenses.
As educators, we share the challenge of how to teach an overwhelming amount of content in a short period of time to a sometimes motivated but often bored and listless student population. I do believe that most students enter higher education with a true desire to master their subject area. Some are even interested in learning for the sake of learning. But lectures overloaded with PowerPoint slides quickly change the motivation to extrinsic. This is especially true in fields where high-stakes testing determines future career options.
I’ve been a bit surprised as I continue to work on the new edition of my Learner-Centered Teaching book at the number of things I still haven’t figured out in the 10 years since I first wrote the book. There are some challenging conundrums associated with implementing these approaches.
Here are some survey results worth mulling over. A group of life sciences faculty were asked about teaching students “science process skills”—identified as data interpretation, problem solving, experimental design, scientific writing, oral communication, collaborative work, and critical analysis of primary literature.
Simon, who teaches very large economics classes wonders in a blog comment if the kind of facilitative learning described in the March 2 post is possible in mass classes. I’d like to use this post to address his query. First off, as any large course instructor knows, teaching those big, required, introductory courses is not easy. In fact, it may well be the most difficult teaching assignment given to teachers. In my mind this raises a host of intriguing questions about who should be teaching and taking those courses. But that’s a topic for another post.
It’s been a while since I was an undergrad, but I still remember my two favorite professors. They had completely different personalities and teaching styles, they even taught in different departments, but they did some things in very similar ways. I think that’s what made them so effective. It really wasn’t the content — although that was part of it — it was more the classroom experience they created.
In a 2008 essay that was published in the Journal of Cell Science author Martin Schwartz writes of the “importance of stupidity” when doing research in the sciences. Schwartz argues that during his graduate research in the sciences, “the crucial lesson was that the scope of things I didn’t know wasn’t merely vast; it was, for all practical purposes, infinite.”
Simulations can be powerful active learning experiences. In the social sciences and humanities they can provide a kind of “lab-like” experience, often not a part of these courses. Finding good simulation exercises is a challenge in some fields and integrating them into the content and objectives of the course requires careful planning and execution. However, this extra work is justified given what a good simulation can accomplish in class. Check out these benefits listed in an excellent article on simulations.
How about a regularly scheduled two-to three-minute break in the middle of class? John A. Olmsted III recommends it for the following reasons: 1) it provides a change of pace and lets students recharge tired brains; 2) it can be used to get students involved with the content; and 3) it can be designed to