Many postsecondary institutions have started to explore what it means to develop and demonstrate teaching expertise, recognizing not only the complexities of teaching and of documenting the experiences of teaching, but also that teaching expertise is developed through a learning process that continues over time (Hendry & Dean, 2002; Kreber, 2002). Our framework (see below graphic) for this growth of teaching expertise draws from the scholarly literature related to postsecondary teaching and learning to demonstrate that teaching expertise involves multiple facets, habits of mind (or ways of knowing and being), and possible developmental activities.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
“Do more with less.” Wherever this phrase is expressed—at a private liberal arts school facing declining enrollments, a large research institute facing decreased support from state budget appropriations, a large corporation facing decreasing fourth quarter profits, or a government entity facing budgetary cutbacks—in each case, the underlying force is tightening fiscal resources. What invariably follows is that employees are asked to be more creative or productive in the face of those declining resources, causing an increase in demand on one’s time and, often, feelings of burnout. While increasing workload is one factor that exacerbates the prevalence of burnout, there are several others.
Faculty careers are often divided into three phases: beginning, middle, and end. Yet despite the fact that it is the longest segment of one’s career,
I’ve been thinking here lately about that long mid-career stretch where there is no clearly defined beginning or ending. You’re no longer a new faculty member, but aren’t yet an old one. From a pedagogical perspective, what makes that time window unique? In a recent post on tired teaching I identified what I think is the major challenge of those years—keeping your teaching fresh and keeping yourself engaged, enthusiastic, and instructionally moving forward. On the other hand, some special opportunities are afforded by that long stretch in the middle. The question is whether we’re taking full advantage of them.
I have been wanting to do a blog post on tired teaching for some time now. Concerns about burnout are what’s motivating me. Teachers can reach a place where teaching does nothing for them or their students. They don’t just wake up one morning and find themselves burned out; they’ve moved there gradually, and it’s a journey that often starts with tired teaching.
See if this sounds familiar.
You’re scheduled to teach a course you have taught before that desperately needs revision. The content and pedagogy go back for a decade or more and are both sadly obsolete, or the grades have been abysmal and the students are threatening to revolt, or someone (the department head, a faculty committee, or you) has decided to offer the course online, or maybe you’re just bored and dread the thought of teaching it again.
My office is on the first floor of the education building. I have spent 27 years in this building. Unless I have a meeting in another department, I rarely go upstairs. Recently, however, I started a daily routine of climbing the four sets of staircases in the building. Trying to slow the progression of osteoporosis in my right hip, I go up one set and down another three times as I make my way around the building. This physical activity has given me a chance to engage in some mental reflection. Here I will briefly share five observations on a career spent teaching in higher education with an eye toward encouraging newer faculty to achieve longevity in the profession.
Part memoir and part advice for others, Journey of Joy: Teaching Tips for Reflection, Rejuvenation and Renewal will encourage and inspire faculty who may have fallen out of love with teaching. It’s loaded with strategies to keep your teaching fresh and invigorated.
It’s 9 a.m. on a Wednesday morning around mid-term. “Carrie James” (a fictional name) grabs her textbook and class roster and heads upstairs to her first class of the day. It starts at 9 o’clock. She makes a pit stop before arriving at the classroom. When Carrie enters the room, most students immediately stop talking. She quickly calls roll and says, “Let’s get started. We have a lot to cover today.” Carrie begins the lecture by displaying a list of key terms on the document camera. She lectures for most of the period, closely following the text outline and then announces a test to the moans and groans of students. As soon as class ends, Carrie returns to her office, shuts the door, and turns her attention to the manuscript that she was editing for publication. She has an hour before her next class which she puts completely out of her mind.
As an undergrad I had a hard time settling on a major so I sampled a lot of different courses during my first couple of years. I remember signing up for one course that looked perfect because it combined two of my interests — media and American politics. In addition to learning about the changing dynamics between the two from a historical perspective, I was excited to see how the professor would incorporate the current presidential election into the course.