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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Talking about teaching

In a recent post, Derek Bruff raises an issue that has often nagged at me when reading articles or watching presentations about teaching and pedagogy:
...one of the principles I attempted to uphold when writing my book was that everyone’s teaching context is different–different students, different disciplines, different institutions, different teaching styles and experiences.  I’m interested in helping instructors think more intentionally about their teaching choices, exploring the pros and cons of choices both traditional and innovative.  So while I may be more excited myself about smart phone systems, I always encourage instructors to select technologies and teaching practices that make the most sense in their particular teaching contexts.
As Bruff points out, every teaching context is different. Even when the contexts seem quite similar, different teachers may have different ideas about what will work 'best' for their students. Unfortunately, I often encounter people who forget this and instead seem to believe that everyone should do things the same way that they do them. Although I know these people are well-intentioned, I am generally a bit put off when I encounter someone telling me the 'right' way to implement a particular teaching innovation. It's one thing to point out that doing things a certain way has specific pedagogical benefits; it's another to judge teachers who choose to do things a different way. A good example is using clickers for peer instruction - I certainly believe that it's better for my students to have them grapple with well-designed peer instruction exercises. But I would never suggest that someone who 'only' uses clickers to check basic understanding of concepts is doing something wrong (and Bruff isn't just being modest in the quote above - I think he does an excellent job in his book of providing options without any judgment).

When teachers find something that works for their students, especially if that something is relatively innovative, it's easy to feel like everyone else should do the same thing. But part of good teaching is also figuring out what works for your students, what is comfortable for you, and recognizing that whatever that is, it may not be the same as what works for someone else.

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Sanford AranoffMarch 11, 2010 at 5:15 AM

    Here is what works for my students. We teachers must understand how students think and build from there stressing the basic principles and logic. See "Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better" on amazon.


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