March 25th, 2008

A Bit from the April issue of The Teaching Professor. . .


My favorite article in the April issue of The Teaching Professor is written by two faculty members at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan. One of the two, an engineer, decided to take a history class from the other. It doesn’t sound like they knew each other prior to this time. They write back and forth about the experience and their perspectives on what was happening. The part I like best is when the “student” faculty member describes how worried she was about her performance in the class. She tried harder than most students because she was afraid she’d lose face in front of her colleague. The colleague writes back that she never gave a thought about how her colleague would perform. She was too busy worrying what her colleague was thinking about her teaching and how she conducted the class.

I don’t think either of those reactions is surprising. They attest to our humanness. However, the article did get me thinking about the colossal irony of faculty, most of us great examples of lifelong learners, working in a veritable knowledge market but never leaving our own knowledge stalls.

I know. There are all sorts of reasons why we can’t be taking classes from each other, not the least being the time issue. Could we be there for a week when something really intriguing is being covered? Could we do a short course during one of the breaks? Could we organize an informal lunch exchange where “participants” volunteer to help those in the group something of interest from a course the participant teaches?

Time does prevent us, but what really keeps us out of each other’s classrooms are the realities these two faculty members describe. What would a colleague say if I got a C on her first quiz? What would a colleague say if I tried to facilitate a discussion and it went nowhere? These two faculty members got beyond these fears and each found the kind of stellar learning experience that awaits those willing to sample elsewhere in the knowledge market.

–Maryellen Weimer