Faculty Focus

HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS

Philosophy of Teaching

Remembering the Coach Who Was a Teacher

I lost a dear friend last month, the colleague and mentor who taught me more about teaching and learning than anyone else. Over the years, Larry Spence wrote a number of pithy pieces for The Teaching Professor. Here’s my favorite.

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Working across disciplines

A Call for the Return of the Polymath Professor

A polymath is “a person of wide knowledge or learning” (Oxford Dictionary) with expertise spanning across a wide spectrum of subject areas and domains. It is expected that such expertise will help the polymath solve complex problems needing the application of transdisciplinary knowledge. Being a polymath and subscribing to the notion that people should embrace all ideas is the core around which the idea of a “Renaissance man” was constructed.

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teaching during personal crisis

Teaching During a Personal Crisis

I reread Nancy Chick’s “Teaching in Times of Crisis” with depressing regularity. It’s about what to do when the horrors of the world—the mass shootings, the hurricanes, the hate marches—walk our students to class. I recommend reading the full article, which discusses practical and specific techniques in detail, but Chick also boils down her research to “acknowledge the crisis.” After neo-Nazis plastered our campus with racist recruitment posters this semester, my students echoed this take-away. As one student put it, “tell us you’re there for us, that you’re a listening ear.”

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professor giving a lecture

What about Teacher Entitlement?

Last post on entitlement (I promise, at least for a while), but Dave Porter’s comment to the recent post on responding to entitlement identified something I’ve been thinking about but hadn’t clearly recognized—teacher entitlement. He writes that in his nearly 40 years in the classroom he’s “seen more instances of teacher ‘entitlement’ than student entitlement.” He continues, “I think clarity, mutual respect, and reciprocity have a great deal to do with the expectations teachers and students have of one another. As teachers, we create the game; it’s seems a little disingenuous to blame our students for playing it.”

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Professors chatting in library.

How to Make our Conversations about Teaching More Productive

Where do your new ideas about teaching and learning come from? Perhaps some come from Faculty Focus and this blog? We certainly hope so! But most college teachers don’t get instructional ideas from the literature. They get them from other teachers, usually in face-to-face or electronic exchanges. Interesting, isn’t it, how much pedagogical information is passed on and around in these very informal ways.

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Professor gesturing in lecture hall

Contradictions in How We Think about Teaching

I like how blogging lets us stir up ideas, watch them simmer, and taste the results.

I’ll start this mix of ideas with Amy Mulnix’s insight that teachers approach learning about teaching much like students approach learning course content. Examples: students think ability matters more than effort and teachers think teaching is a gift that is given more than a skill that can and should be developed; students want easy answers and teachers want techniques that work right the first time; and both share the fear of failure. Is this a comparison from which we might learn something?

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Male professor in front of room.

Understanding Our Strengths and Weaknesses as Teachers

Every teacher has strengths and weaknesses. Have you ever tried to list yours? Doing so is a worthwhile activity. I’d recommend doing it in private with a favorite libation—only one, because there is a need to be thoughtful and honest.

I’m still thinking about mid-career issues, and I’m wondering whether by the time we reach the middle of our careers, we can’t confront our weaknesses with a bit more maturity.

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young prof in library

More on Evidence-Based Teaching

In last week’s post, we looked at a sample of the discipline-based evidence in support of quizzes with the goal of gaining a better understanding of what it means to say that an instructional practice is evidence-based. We are using quizzes as the example, but this type of exploration could and should be done with any number of instructional practices.

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Professor with students

Why We Teach

We’re at that time of the academic year when the daily details begin to pile up. Teach a class, grade assignments, schedule advisees, and prep for tomorrow. It may not feel like a grind just yet, but it does require lots of focused energy, which makes this a perfect time for a quick reflection on why we teach. For some, teaching is just a job; it’s a paycheck necessity. But for readers of a blog on teaching and learning, I’m pretty sure we’re in it for something more than the bucks, which tend to be pretty modest anyway.

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professor with small group of students

How Teaching is Like Composting

I started composting at our summer place in 2009, and now I’m a convert. In the summer, we live on an island that’s mostly rock covered with something the locals call “organic matter.” Growing anything this far north on this soil base is challenging, but compost has made a big difference. My bleeding hearts, campanulas, delphinium, phlox, and coral bells are far more impressive than they used to be.

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