User:Carl Boettiger/Notebook/Teaching/2010/02/19

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Faculty Mentoring Faculty Presentation

"Short Cuts to Excellent Teaching: A Primer"

  • by James Shaffrath,
  • from Exercise Biology, The Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior

Just saw this presentation in the Faculty Mentoring Faculty program. Good program, though pretty basic, not really touching on peer learning but focusing on lecture content and style. Things like rolling lexicon (using both jargon and simple phrases), being present, being engaging. The broad introduction was definitely the best part, and an inspiring view about the role of education. What I took away most, though, was the paradigm of Teachers as heroes, teachers as friends. The human element dominates the teaching experience, it's captured in the photograph of the girl's expression on finding the word "brilliant" in her first dictionary, and in James' penetrating assertion that there's someone else in the room seeing that expression. His highest goal was lighting the spark of education, the W.B. Yeats quote I've had to add to the notebook cover. A bit on my reaction follows.

Reflection on the talk

Some of my favorite professors would walk into the classroom with nothing but a piece of chalk, offer no more introduction than to kick off his shoes to some corner and begin lecturing, scrawling away on the blackboard regardless of whether half the class hadn't yet arrived or sat down. We'd all copy notes furiously in that class, understand very little of it; everyone trying to keep up with the logic of the formulae for as many minutes as possible before falling back into scribe mode; but it didn't matter. We'd been given the spark, the professor knew something we wanted to know, and we worked like hell to learn it. The learning always came after though, from each other and the TAs in all those night-long problem sessions. I've focused on that element more in my thoughts on teaching, and how it can be facilitated and improved -- the actual learning itself. But I think I must remember the role of the teacher as that spark as well, as a hero. After all, the will to learn comes first.