Ten Statements About Teaching 3

I’m participating in the #WWEOpen13 MOOC about open online teaching. For the first unit, we were asked to post our “teaching philosophy.”  These kinds of questions typically tie me in knots. They seem inherently circular and unsolvable: to say how I should teach, I need to know what students need to learn, which isn’t something I can just declare. For whatever reason, this time I was able to tap out ten statements.  I don’t know that I’d call them a philosophy, but they ring true as commitments I feel comfortable with.

  1. Good teaching is good learning… for both the student and the instructor.  Learning means new connections and themes and lessons that weren’t there at the beginning.

  1. I believe in a balance between what the instructor and the students contribute.  Teaching shouldn’t be a monologue, but it also shouldn’t be purely a peer conversation: students want the guidance and validation and knowledge that the instructor can orchestrate.

  1. Every student should feel they are part of the experience and encouraged to contribute their unique perspectives. In particular, students should not be unfairly disadvantaged by factors such as gender, race, national origin, language, or disability.

  1. Good courses are well-designed interactive narratives, like good video games.

  1. Attention is the most valuable resource in the world today. My job is to earn my students’ attention.

  1. We live in a digitally connected world of ubiquitous access to information. Teaching that pretends otherwise will fail.

  1. Assessment should reward effort. Those who try hard should do well. (Some of those who don’t try hard will also do well, based on sheer ability, but that’s less important.)

  1. Assessment is feedback. It should tell both the students and the instructor something about how they are doing, with enough frequency to be useful and motivating.

  1. Assessment is learning. It should teach the students something, not just verify what they’ve been taught.

  1. Good teaching is fun. Both the students and the instructor should enjoy the experience. Great teaching is great fun.

Although the MOOC is about online teaching, I don’t see any reason to make that a point of distinction.  Techniques will vary between a small in-person course, a large in-person lecture, a synchronous online course, and a massive asynchronous MOOC, but one’s philosophy of teaching shouldn’t.  And I tend to see see all teaching, at least in higher ed, as a form of blended learning.  We should always use online for a what it does best, and in-person for what it does best.  Our pedagogy should be robust to such variation.