I attended a very interesting four-hour training session today on the basics of teaching. (A fact in the teaching profession: college teachers are qualified on content credentials, not teaching; much of ‘teaching’ is learned in the classroom, in office hours, in special training, or in conferences with colleagues and researchers.)
I can best describe the course as a fly-over of a very large territory with a knowledgeable tour guide who has spent many years exploring and mapping the terrain. Some of the features of the topography: varieties of intelligence; preferred styles of learning; the symbiosis of teaching and learning; cultural influence and interaction; metacognition; and emotion in teacher and student, to name a few. The course practiced what it was teaching and taught in segments of “look below, over there,” “listen to this tale and the voices of fellow travelers,” and “walk about to stretch your minds and seek other opinions.” (Yes, appeals to visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles.)
What did this teacher/student enjoy the most? The filling out of worksheets to help identify preferred learning styles. The task was directed, focused, nurturing, engaging, connected and valued. Why? Because it was about me! What could be more interesting to learn? Everyone knows that somehow the best teachers facilitate learning. That learning is a construction in the nervous system that allows new pattern recognition. (No, I can’t point to research; this is a blog; I can make unsubstantiated generalizations.) That pattern recognition allows the construction of new pathways to more pattern recognition. A recursive build of patterns. (Serendipitously, something we covered, briefly, in my discrete mathematics course this week.)
The purpose of the training is to teach the teacher that there is more to teaching than teaching and so bring us back to land with the firm intention of trying something to change our teaching to be more sensitive to the learning of the students we teach. Some change should be chosen in the area of our learning preferences that we least prefer. For without coaching, we teach the way we like to learn, and our students must wear the shoes that fit us well. I least-like interaction with the emotional issues of learning; I most-like analysis of systems of symbols and logic. I need to feed the emotional beast? Hopefully, it will not eat me for dinner before I learn to tame it. Will I succeed? I have to go to analyze the situation first.