Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Ch.2 The Core Assumptions of Skillful Teaching

As mentioned in the last post I have written down specific notes and highlights passages and thought I would share what popped out for me in this chapter. I have highlighted some statements in red with the hope of getting some comments from readers. A lot of this post is personal and relates to my specific experiences in the classroom . I feel this book has allowed me to reflect on my first 2 years and analyze what has happened in the classroom and what I can do differently.

This is one of the first times I feel that I can see the positives of blogging. This is a great way for me to keep a record of my experiences/emotions from my first 2 years of instructing before I forget them!!

The 4 core assumptions:

1) "Skillful teaching is whatever helps students learn
2) Skillful teachers adopt a critically reflective stance toward their practice
3) The most important knowledge that skillful teachers need to do good work is a constant awareness    of how students are experiencing their learning and perceiving teachers' actions
4) College students of any age should be treated as adults. " (Brookfield, 2015)

The good news is I agree with all these assumptions and experienced them all in the classroom. One of the reasons I enjoy this book is I feel it really related to what I was seeing and feeling in the classroom. I find it very practical.

Certain quotes that struck me in this chapter (Brookfield, 2015) are:

" a commitment to behaving in ways that we assume are professional gets in the way of helping students learn" p.18

"the only voices they (students) will take seriously are those of former students..." p.18

"Will doing this help students learn?" p.19

"Skillful teaching is teaching that is contextually informed." p.20

On page 21 a paragraph about the issue of our teaching becoming stale. I don't want predictability and boredom to occur. I wrote about this in my first self reflection and have seen this first hand. This has to be part of my 5 year, 10 year professional plan to figure out ways to keep exploring as a teacher for myself and for the students/program. Ways that I feel this can be prevented is by taking courses, trying new ideas, which also means continuing education, asking peers to come into your class for feedback, listening to the students (keeping the content modern and in a language they understand). Taking time to reflect on what you have for material and what you can do to change it if needed. I guess in general constant reflection on what is being done in the classroom with the knowledge that what has been done before might not work with this group of students.

"anonymity of student responses" and "making students feel safe" in the learning environment p.23
This is one of the keys for allowing students to become themselves and this will then allow them to really listen to what is happening in the classroom instead of putting up fronts. I feel as an instructor it is my job to take down the walls. I believe teaching is all about relationships. I have used anonymity with student responses and find this works but I also give them the option of putting their names on comments if they wish as well. This also makes me able to adjust specifically to a student if needed. All about gaining trust in the classroom !!

students would like their teachers to "be authoritative, not authoritarian." p.24
Basically this comes down to treating people the way you would like to be treated. Common sense in my opinion!

Students want "their teachers to know what they are doing, that they have a plan guiding their actions and that they're not new to the classroom." p.24
I definitely have experienced this first hand. In my first year I was unsure of instructions for certain labs, assignments and saw how this affected the students. Part of the reason for this was I was a first time teacher, and just thrown in there (as I'm sure we all have been) and the material was not mine, it was not my vision. I have since learned that the material has to be mine to feel more authentic for the students and myself. I have to be able to but my personality on it and to believe in it. I was lucky to have some development time and have since remedied the problem. I kind of laugh at the idea that students want an experienced teacher  because it always makes me think of when I handed out resumes and the employer always wanted someone with experience and all the applicant wants is the opportunity for experience. I think this can be a double edged sword. An experienced teacher can be good but can also be in the stage of boredom and not in tune with the students whereas a new teacher will be willing to try new things and could be in tune with the class. Does anyone else have thoughts on this? 

"students dislike it when teachers step over the line and make inappropriate disclosures regarding their personal life." p. 24 This is advice I received from a student who was in the program before I accepted the job. I had asked her what she had liked about her instructors and what advice she would give me as she was just graduating from the program. Basically she said "don't talk about yourself, keep to the material." She had obviously had a bad experience! I took this advice to keep the material relevant but feel you do have to show a bit about your person to the class but you have to be able to read when this is appropriate. I feel sharing information about yourself makes the class more of a community and this is something that I have tried to create and I feel I have done so with success. I do not want my students to think I am a robot!  Does anyone else have experience with this or advice they have received from students ? 

"students want to know what they are being asked to do is important and necessary to their development. " p.24
This is so true , students do not want to just do make work projects and either do I.  Being upfront works best. Why are we doing this and why is it important ?! I am always keeping this in the back of my head when I am creating an activity/assignment.

"teachers need to model an initial engagement in any learning task..."  p.24
I made a mistake once of giving a new activity where students might be stepping out of their comfort zone without demonstrating myself first. I did not get the reaction/engagement that I initially thought the activity would produce. I realized that I had to break the ice first and create that community again and this would allow the students to feel more comfortable and then participate openly.

I really enjoyed this chapter and found I was able to relate a lot of the material to my classroom experience. Any comments would be appreciated.

Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: on technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom. Jossey-Bass.

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