Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Teaching Teaching?

More workshop today.

Here's what I always wonder about workshops that are supposed to develop instructors as better teachers:  why are they so often poorly done in terms of time management and structuring?

We sat today for two and a half hours solid.  No moving around.  There was one short five minute starting point where we made individual lists and shared.  But other than that, it's mostly been being talked at or shown stuffs on a screen.

I think it's really problematic that the folks who are supposed to teach teachers don't use strategies that don't have me wriggling in my chair after an hour and a half, don't have me wanting to do something else.  (When I sit through these things, I totally sympathize with students doing effbee or whatever in boring classes, especially if those classes last all day.)


  1. Anonymous11:44 AM

    Amen! I have been to so many pedagogy workshops and presentations on "best practices in teaching" that are nothing but endless, multi-hour lectures punctuated by lame powerpoint slides. If I taught that way, I would get ripped to shreds in my evaluations (both student and peer).

  2. Absolutely. And I remember my education classes, in college, being some of my least favorite--mostly because of the way they were taught.

  3. The other thing I find problematic in many "professional development" events of this type is the assumption that all of the wisdom resides in those at the front of the room (or on screen).* If you're going to pay to bring a significant number of your instructors together for a significant amount of time, that seems to me like an occasion for them to share impressions and build some collective wisdom. It could certainly be tied to the latest theories, but how about *testing* them against the assembled instructors' wisdom?

    Of course this is what (I think) service work, especially that directed at curriculum development and revision, was once all about. But there's less and less respect given to (and time allowed for) the sort of "local research" professors do in the course of teaching their courses, and more and more resources poured into the sort of research done by people outside the classroom -- the supposed "educational experts." Of course it's been this way for a long time in K-12; the movement of similar thinking, and the resulting structures, into the academy is not, in my opinion, good news.

    *In the undergraduate classroom, I'm actually a bit suspicious of some student-experience-centered approaches to learning, since I think they often involve the instructor abrogating his/her responsibility as the possessor and communicator of a certain amount of knowledge about a discipline and how it works. But when the "students" are experienced teachers themselves -- or experienced professionals of any kind -- such approaches seem much more appropriate to me.

  4. I run these things quite often, and I always make them interactive. I've said the same thing at many a conference on teaching. We sit and watch slides when what I really want to do is have conversations with the people next to me. I try to facilitate that in my own workshops whenever I can.

  5. I have had some good experiences, particularly when teaching workshops have been run by people who are active in classrooms. We have a regional conference which includes both teacher-presented and outside-expert-presented stuff and which has been pretty consistently good to excellent. But my experience with "trainings" by outside trainers is similar to yours--they do not practice what they preach!

  6. I always aim to make my workshops interactive too, although I find I am constantly balancing expectations: sometimes, people write on evaluation forms from very interactive workshops that they wanted more presentation of current research or more examples or something; if I do something more presentational, people say--understandably--that they want more interaction. I'm getting better at figuring out how to set expectations at the start. But it is a balance (although mostly, of course, interaction is what's important: model what you are teaching, always).