When I taught my first class, I had that sinking feeling that everyone else had somehow gotten an instruction manual while I was left to drift on my own, awash in a sea of skeptical students. I had a similar reaction when I became a parent: where are the damn instructions? I don’t know what to do. Someone could get hurt here! Alas, as all you parents out there can testify, there is no instruction manual–and the books that present themselves as such are WRONG. We are left to figure things out for ourselves. Continue reading “Instructions Not Provided”
Are we unfair to students?
Can our decisions, no matter how good our intentions, hurt student learning?
Are we teaching for ourselves, or for our students?
These are challenging questions, ones that make me uncomfortable when I hear them. Part of this discomfort stems from defensiveness; how dare you assume I’m doing things intentionally to hurt student learning? How dare you question my assumptions? But another part of that discomfort stems from an awareness that maybe these questions have a point. Continue reading “The Choices We Make”
Fans of The Simpsons will probably recognize the reference in this post’s title; it comes from a 1994 episode where news anchor Kent Brockman is reporting on what he thinks is an invasion of alien ants: “I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.” It’s a wickedly funny episode (as most early Simpsons were), but Brockman’s line has taken on a pop-culture life of its own since then. Continue reading “I, For One, Welcome Our New Robot Overlords”
The psychologist Abraham Maslow famously observed that if the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. I first heard this insight from a mentor when I was beginning my teaching career, and it’s had a profound influence on me ever since. In one sense, it’s a fairly obvious pedagogical point: tools matter. I wouldn’t use a hammer to remove a splinter from my finger, and I wouldn’t lecture for a whole period if I was trying to foster active learning. But there’s more at work here, I think; “tools” can also signify mindsets and attitudes. For example, if our default mindset about students is that they are deficient (“they can’t write worth a damn!”), then that conditions our responses to their work (We might ignore improvement because their writing never reaches “mastery” level).
Hammer, hammer, hammer.
“What’s wrong with hammers?”
Well, it has begun. Whether we were ready or not, we all have a week of classes under our collective belt. Where’s my classroom no I didn’t print out the latest copy of my schedule do we have to buy the books why can’t I upload anything to Blackboard hey prof I’m going to miss class Monday because my cat has the clap when do your kids start school did I remember my class roster why do I have 53 emails did this projector bulb just burn out? CHAOS AND ENTROPY REIGN
Another semester is upon us! For our new faculty and staff colleagues, welcome! For the seasoned veterans, welcome back!
Also, welcome to the new blog for Grand View’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning! We’ll be posting regularly here; the weekly “Teaching Tips” newsletters will now be blog posts rather than PDF attachments, for example. We’ll also use this platform to connect you with resources and programming the CETL has to offer. We hope this space becomes destination reading for your academic journey, a place where thoughtful conversations on Teaching and Learning can flourish.
To perhaps get those conversations started, here are a couple of recent pieces that caught my eye:
- Stephanie Masson at Northwestern published an interesting essay on tardiness that goes beyond merely lamenting student behavior to ask good questions and come up with some good (albeit tentative) solutions to a chronic classroom issue.
- We’ve heard a lot of talk about “Growth Mindsets,” a concept articulated most notably in Carol Dweck’s recent bestselling book. But the concept has morphed into a “buzzword,” and that means there’s imprecise usage and potential for abuse, according to the Disappointed Idealist’s thoughtful examination of the concept and the pitfalls of supposedly easy solutions in the classroom.
Look for more links and CETL news on Friday, with this semester’s first Teaching Tips!
Have a great beginning to the semester!