The Right Tool For the Job

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?”

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Here We Are, Now Entertain Us

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


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Prepare to Launch!

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!

Let's do this.