Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Joy and Responsibility of Teaching Well

This morning I attended our Pew Faculty Teaching & Learning Center’s annual Teaching Conference, at which the keynote speaker was Dr. L. Dee Fink, who spoke on “The Joy and Responsibility of Teaching Well.” Here are my notes.

Colleges should be ranked on: meaningful general education, good pedagogical practices, high student engagement, and quality learning.

Joy comes from the things that are important to us, and from the feeling that we did them well.

Is what we’re doing as college teachers important?

  • the new world economy is highly knowledge-intensive—we have to keep learning or we fall behind.
  • the global problems get worse unless our students (or graduates) work on solving them.

How well are we doing in higher education?

  • employers say that our graduates can’t solve problems, work with diverse co-workers, or work collaboratively in small groups
  • the National Study of Adult Literacy reports that 2/3 of college graduates are functionally illiterate
  • data from the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) can be interpreted to mean that seniors are not reading, analyzing, interpreting, or applying information in their class assignments
  • “Declining by Degrees” –students don’t learn how to engage in critical thinking
  • Derek Bok says in “Our Underachieving Colleges” that students are not learning and that there is a lack of overarching purpose in undergraduate curricula.

What can we do? Re-examine:

  • what we teach
  • how we teach
  • how we gear up to teach
  • who we are as teachers (see Parker Palmer’s work)

What we teach:

· what we want students to learn is not just knowledge about the discipline

· significant learning comes from a combination of foundational knowledge, application, integration, human dimension (working with others and knowing oneself), caring (new interest, feelings, and values), and learning how to learn.

· Liberal Education – America’s Promise (LEAP)’s Essential Learning Outcomes—engage the big questions in addition to the above combination

How we teach: course design includes learning goals, teaching & learning activities, feedback & assessment

· is there significant learning? active learning? educative assessment (reflective and forward-looking=how will you apply this knowledge?) [we librarians should use minute papers to ask not only what students learned as the most important point in library instruction sessions and what they still have questions about, but also to ask how they will apply their new knowledge to future research]

· criteria & standards=rubrics [we library faculty should work with classroom faculty to encourage them to design rubrics which address the quality of resources students include in their papers and how well students integrate those resources]

· teaching strategy=combination of activities, in a sequence that matters

o readiness test (have they read the material?)=individual, then immediately following the same test in small groups

o application problems=small groups

o exam on content and application

o culminating project

o all of this leads not just to “exposure” to the material but also to understandings, the ability to use the content, and to valuing the content

· President Haas said that faculty are “professional educators”

· all professionals value their own professional development very seriously—

o learn

o use

o assess

o share with colleagues

o reflect

o repeat

o how much time should faculty spend on learning about teaching & learning? Airline reservations employees spent at least 4 hours/month (48 hours/year) in professional development to learn new skills & about changes in the industry

o our job as professional educators is to:

§ be human alchemists

§ change the ordinary into the special (i.e.,—transforming students into confident, capable, caring people

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