My initial motivation for creating this blog and website, was to publicly share my grapplings with issues of teaching and learning with the intention of growth and learning. As a doctoral student, and as someone who is forging a career for herself in the scholarship of and critical participation in the teaching and learning of higher education, I’ve increasingly recognized the value of reflection, discussion, critique, and evaluation upon those matters that are of importance to us.
To deny this pursuit, and perhaps sluff it off as one of those great many ideas that could have come to fruition if only [insert any common excuse here], would be violating one of the most damaging assumptions that continues to plague teaching and learning in higher education today – that is, assuming teaching to be tacit in nature: without open expression, without dialogue, unvoiced, unspoken.
This assumption reveals itself in many ways; it comes through when we believe that great teachers simply develop over time without too much conscious effort or discussion; or when institutions, through their hiring and tenureship practices, promote the belief that the ability and right to teach others develops in tandem with the attainment of expert level knowledge within one’s discipline of study.
In discussions regarding the composition of learning outcomes for a given course, it is often encouraged that educators reflect on what they are expecting of students so they can explicit the more tacit skills and abilities they are assuming of their learners. For example, in a 200-level undergraduate course with an essay component an instructor might mistakenly assume that her students already have the research and writing skills for composing the quality essay she expects. Acknowledging the necessity of these skills for success in her course, the instructor might compose a learning outcome that states “by the end of the course, students will be able to investigate an issue and communicate their findings through scholarly writing”. In other words, bringing attention to that which was once assumed or implicit.
The very same logic applies to each of us as lifelong learners of our chosen profession – as we engage in our pursuit, what skills are being assumed to be tacitly developing within us? What learning outcomes would we compose for ourselves and others if we were to sit back and reflect upon what we really expect of our performance?
A recent commentary published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, titled We Must Prepare PhD Students for the Complicated Art of Teaching, highlights the damaging impact that results when graduate students (the presumed post-secondary educators of tomorrow) are not actively facilitated through the process of growing as critical educators. Questions regarding Bok’s slant upon on poor graduate training as main plausible reason for the sluggish pace of reform aside, the article as a whole calls attention to the perpetuating problem of failing to place adequate attention on teaching and learning.
So here I am. Explicit and exposed as ever in one small step towards making teaching and learning more forthright as I engage in a journey towards those learning outcomes I have set for my professional career and, ultimately, my life.
By the end of this [life] course, may the learner have critiqued and grappled with those issues and challenges most important in her development as a educator, may she have conversed with others in discursive dialogue, and may she have justified the messy trajectory of her growth through the very act of making explicit.
Photo credit: Jan Erik Waider, Unsplash