February 19th, 2009

Happy to be Heading Out


I’m back on the road this week and happy to be heading out. I’ve been home for the past three months and am ready to be back working with faculty. I often describe them as the students we all love to teach—bright, curious, intrinsically motivated, and always willing to participate.

I especially appreciate the spirit of sharing almost always a part of sessions on teaching and learning. Most attend these kinds of sessions because they are interested in learning something new. But most are also willing to share what they have learned. Say the problem is getting students to hand papers in on time, or take a group work activity seriously, or listen to what classmates say when they participate, faculty will talk about how they’ve tackled the problem. And if you want to do what somebody else suggests, you don’t have to ask permission. Good pedagogical ideas come without intellectual property issues.

And the sharing goes beyond telling. If someone has developed a resource, say a rubric for grading in class presentations or a handout on primary sources or a set of questions students can ask when they’re stuck on a problem, most are happy to share the material with others.

During a good interactive session where faculty are delving into pedagogical issues, you often see all that collegiality can be. Faculty listen to each other, they build on the comments of others, they raise follow-up questions, and even offer each other positive feedback. The petty political bickering too often characteristic of department meetings, faculty committees, or faculty senate deliberations, I don’t hear any of that very often.

I don’t have my head in the clouds. I’ve been at and have even conducted some pretty awful sessions on teaching and learning. They aren’t always spectacular. Still, they are one of the few occasions where faculty have the chance to learn from and with each other. And faculty don’t just learn about new approaches, techniques and resources, they discover that those pedagogical issues and problems they experience and pretty much shared by all who teach. Some days that alone is worth the price of admission.

Yup, I’m happy to be heading out, even for a South Dakota destination.

—Maryellen Weimer