August 6th, 2018

It’s Time for a Change


teaching professor

About 10 years ago, the Teaching Professor Blog found a good home on Faculty Focus which provided a fitting forum for reaching a large contingent of college faculty beyond the monthly print newsletter. But nothing stays the same and changing environments create new opportunities and call for new responses. That’s why you’ll begin noticing changes to the Teaching Professor and Faculty Focus.

One of the first things you’ll see is that we’re retiring the Teaching Professor Blog name and recasting it as weekly column aptly named For Those Who Teach. It will no longer be a part of Faculty Focus, but is moving to an entirely new Teaching Professor website. The purpose and style of For Those Who Teach will be the similar to what you’ve come to expect from the blog—I’ll be offering new and interesting instructional ideas, summarizing relevant research, raising questions, making suggestions, and sometimes telling you (gently and constructively, I hope) that teaching improvement is for everyone. So yes, I will still be writing each week, and I sincerely hope you will still be making comments in response. I’ve loved the conversations we’ve had on the blog and look forward to them continuing.

I retired from Penn State in 2007, but one of the questions I often get is, why are you still working so hard?

One of the reasons I’m still working (besides hating to clean house) is that we have yet to discover the best ways to keep faculty informed on teaching and learning issues. We have lots of evidence that they don’t read books or read journal articles on it. . .yes, some do, I know, but not all that many. And yes, I know Teaching Professor readers are the exception—you do read more than most, thank you very much. But there’s still lots of reasons why we should explore different ways of presenting ideas and information on teaching and learning. Take research studies, for example. Journals and, yes, even in pedagogical publications, are mired in methodological details, focus little on implications, and are considered “good reading” only when you can’t sleep. Increasingly, discipline-based journals demonstrate a strong preference for research articles. As important as it is, evidence isn’t the only kind of information teachers need. They need advice, they need new ideas, they need inspiration, and they need scholarship that provokes deeper thinking about teaching and learning.

Technology affords us an especially good opportunity to explore different delivery methods for connecting, learning, and growing as teachers. Good, useful information does not have to look like a text-heavy journal article or be in a book. It can be graphically interesting, provide links to related information, and use more accessible formats— all valuable features for busy readers who only have intermittent bits of time to devote to professional reading and study. Starting this month, you’ll begin to see how we plan to use our new Teaching Professor website to deliver content in new and interesting ways.

I’m also still working because Magna Publications is one of the very few publishers with a history of exploring different ways of packaging and presenting instructional information. More than 30 years ago, they took a risk on the newsletter when no other publisher would. And the company continues to work on resources and events for postsecondary educators—online seminars, 20-Minute Mentors, and conferences and workshops of various sorts. How many other publishers do you see building diversified collections of teaching-learning resources?

It’s important to understand that Magna needs to keep moving forward as company. They don’t have a giant corporate conglomerate standing behind them. They aren’t associated with any University Press, and they don’t have grant funding opportunities. They are a small company facing all the challenges common to small businesses and doing so in the resource-lean higher education environment. They can’t survive on free products alone. Magna needs and deserves your continued support. So, check out my column at its new home and see what the next-generation Teaching Professor looks like.

And there’s one final reason I still can’t retire. I’ve still got more to learn about teaching and learning. Isn’t that the case with all of us? I’ve been around the block more than once, but whenever I decide to really dig into an area of study (multitasking, academic integrity, student entitlement, study strategies, group work) I can’t believe how much I find that’s brand-new knowledge for me. And it’s good stuff—relevant, useful—and best of all I have a place where I can share it with an amazingly diverse and dedicated community of college educators. Thanks for being a part of that community!