Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Björk the Serial Arsonist

That's my Viking Name, according to a generator I found today. Okay, it was one of the names, based on just my first name, but it's my favourite.

So, now that I've reeled you in with my new criminal alias...

I've been feeling under-prepared for the someday eventuality of teaching a University-level class. I'm not talking about feeling like I won't understand the field well enough (although sometimes I get butterflies thinking about the comprehensive exams I'll have to do in my second year of my PhD). But why don't I get to learn how to teach? I am very surrounded by teachers (and prospective teachers) in my life, and it's surreal to me that they had to commit four years of their lives to an education degree, while my university requires only a two day workshop to prepare for being a TA or lecturer (Ky's workshop at her university was only one day long). A friend of mine got both his Education degree and his Honours history before going to grad school, all with the goal of a future professorship.

I'm not saying that I want to go back and learn how to teach in a high school setting; the University setting is vastly different. I'm just saying that, in addition to the formal education I'm already receiving, I'd like to learn more about the theories behind different teaching styles, and maybe learn how to lesson plan. Karl (the eternal homeschooler) suggested that his attitude to all of this is that you don't need to take a class to learn these things, but instead all you need is to "look it up in a book." However, I want to learn from other people, and would appreciate having feedback on my own teaching styles. And I'm not saying that I need an additional degree, on top of all the other education I'm receiving. An intensive three- or six-credit course would suffice.

I know that I've learned a lot by working for amazing professors, and especially from my TAships and from being involved in course design projects. Apparently, I did well when I finally got to interact with my classes (instead of only having contact with them through their papers that I marked). However, it all still feels like guesswork. I've taken writing courses to make me aware of different writing styles; I've taken a historiography course to introduce me to the underlying theories; where is my course where I learn how to teach all of this? Is there already something in place, of which I'm just not aware?

What do you think? (I can already predict Derek's response, although I'm pretty sure I don't agree with all of his educational theories.)

18 comments:

Becca said...

I agree... there should be at least a class to teach you about teaching really - or even just to give you a chance to practice different styles - I've had some great profs - and some duds in the last four years- my favorite is a woman who took at Masters in Education because she wanted to be able to teach... not just know her stuff... I am not saying you need an Education degree... however I am glad you are aware and thinking about this gap - even that shows you are on your way to being an amazing prof.
Becca

Jen said...

For me, I found that practical experience through volenteering at the learning center and high school and tutoring told me lots about my teaching style.

I also discovered that although I personally do better at humanities, math and sciences are WAY easier to teach.

Life of Turner said...

Well, I'll attempt not to be too predictable here, but in the interest of living up to expectations, here are my thoughts. You have really identified a significant issue here in that post-secondary educators are not taught how to teach, and I agree wholeheartedly that that issue needs to be addressed, particularly for TAs. But I will disagree with one of your other presuppositions. In Saskatchewan, secondary education (Grades 10-12) is at least in name moving toward a university-style model, and it is becoming increasingly common for the latter years of high school to be conducted much as a university class is conducted. And as you and any other person who has dealt with university students will attest, there is little difference in ability between high school students and students who enter university straight out of high school. So theoretically, any first-year junior-level courses can (and arguably should) be taught in a manner similar to that used with high school students. That said, the focus on content is increased in university, and first-year needs to reflect more than just a regurgitation of Grade 12. So now what?
As I "reflect" on my experience in the College of Education, I realize most of it is pretty useless. At the very best, it's stretched thin, like butter spread over too much bread. You don't need most of it to teach at any level. If you were to take the introductory course to teaching secondary (EPSE 100/200 at U of R; EDCUR 200 at U of S) during the first semester you were teaching and to use your classroom experience to accent that "book" learning, I imagine that would be fairly satisfactory. As any teacher will tell you, time in the classroom and effort put into teaching are the two primary ways to learn how to teach. The training will assist you and make it easier to begin, but ultimately it will be a question of you figuring out how you work in a classroom, and that will come mainly with time. Just make the mistakes you're inevitably going to make, deal with them, and move on. That's my advice. (Was it what you expected?)

Derek out.

Chris Reed said...

I won't get into this to much except to say that I think that the idea of you taking a basic education class would be pointless. You know the basics. You would need a EPS 350 or equivalent class. At this level they look at how to apply the basics to your subject area and how to do lesson plans and unit plans, etc.
You would also benefit from an educational psychology class that addresses different learning styles and learning theories.
However despite all of this I do not think that you would be allowed to just drop into these classes though you may be allowed to audit them. Also I think that the best way to learn is by doing. You already have some of this under your belt. So reflect on what went well and consider how to use that again to your advantage and reflect on what went bad and consider what you could do to change it.
You could also feel free to run any ideas past your future husband as he knows a thing or two about teaching theory.

J.C.Q. said...

I would go to the Teaching Education Centre at the U of R. They exist for just that reason and can give you lots of tips. My mommy and some other people I don't know founded it because they agree with you. Maybe there's one in Victoria, too.

Chris Reed said...

Also I thought that I might add that my viking name is appropriately Herjólf the Ready-in-five-minutes. If you add the last name Reed I become Eyvind the Foolhardy. I prefer the first.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Yeah, JCQ, I've dealt a lot with the Teaching Development Centre (they ran the 2-day course, and they provided a lot of help when I was part of a course design project). I've realised I'm not entirely under-prepared, and I'm quite a bit more fortunate than most because of the experience I've had at the University, and because of man I'm marrying. But, at the same time, I do still feel under-educated.

Okay, and Derek didn't completely fulfill my assumptions, but I still really don't think what I need is to take Education classes geared at teaching you to teach high school students.

LynnieC said...

I hope you see this comment cause I have the BEST viking name ever.
Gunnhild the Comedy Sidekick
Henceforth, please refer to me as such.
G

LynnieC said...

Oh, and I think that you should kidnap Dr B and hook your brains up to eachother and sap all of his teaching skills from him. And his German. Think of the time you'd save!!!! And steal his ability to make me cry. He's such an old softy. And then you should download Sh-Boom by the Crew Cuts cause it makes me so happy.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Oh, Gunnhild, how happy you make me. I agree with you in entirety: I need to steal all of Dr. B's teaching/German/softy abilities, and I really really need to track down "Sh-Boom." I forgot about the fabulousness of that song. Doesn't the lead singer sound like Gene Kelly? Now the song is playing in my head and making me happy.

Life of Turner said...

First of all, the equivalent of EDCUR 200 at the U of S appears to be EPS 350 at the U of R, as Chris explained it, so I apologize for that confusion. Secondly, at least where I'm from, there is actually very little difference between learning how to teach the different age levels according to the program. I focus on the curriculum in my area of specialty, but I still take the same Ed Foundations and Ed Psychology courses as Elementary and Middle Years students do. I know at the U of R they take an Adolescent Psychology class, which is slightly different. But as a teacher, I am qualified upon receiving my certification to teach any grade level in Saskatchewan, regardless of my area of specialization. (Perfect example: Chris teaching Grade 3 in Eatonia.) So within the construct of the College of Education and the field of education, we all receive essentially the same training, just with some slightly more focussed investigations according to age group and subject area. Why should teaching post-secondary fall outside of that scope of training? My argument is that, at least at a bachelor's honours level, that it does not, and that the development of the bachelor's degree has resulted in those first degrees fulfilling essentially the same role in society as high school did thirty years ago. (This argument is not to say whether that should be the situation, only to point out that it is, at least in my estimation.) I do believe there still exists a qualitative difference between a bachelor's degree and a masters degree, but I think that anyone teaching at a bachelor level should ideally be required to take a basic Ed Curriculum course, an Ed Psych engineered to later years, and possibly even some seminars in Ed Foundations. Now, there will be some students in bachelor's level study for whom these methods would have to be adjusted, but the same is true of any age level. Hence my insistence that education about education is becoming more inherently necessary at the bachelor's level. Now I'll leave it up to Maryanne to voice her disagreement with me and her insistence that a bachelor's degree SHOULD be different, to which I will say, it SHOULD, but it isn't, and she'll call me a fatalist, and I'll say I'm a realist, and then we'll start talking about superheroes.

Derek out.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

And I will fulfill my required role and insist that there are inherent differences between high school and undergraduate education -- especially beyond the second year level. It is very much more content-oriented and far less "learning to learn." And I would say that the senior years of undergraduate resemble grad school far more than they resemble secondary education.

I am also saying that there is so much education required in order to teach at that university level that I am not proposing adding another degree on to that.

In conclusion: I disagree with Derek.

Life of Turner said...

First of all, a correction from my last comment. I typed "Why should teaching post-secondary fall outside of that scope of training? My argument is that, at least at a bachelor's honours level, that it does not," and the word "except" should replace "at least." I typed it wrong, and thus do agree with part of what Maryanne said about the upper years of a bachelor's degree being closer to grad school, a point with which I agree. But, part of the problem is that there are few students who reach those levels within the confines of a non-honours bachelor's degree (including myself), and so a regular bachelor's degree rarely progresses past the initial phase.
Secondly, I'm not sure how much more "education" is required to teach at a university level than at a high school level. More "information" is required, and you need to have a solid grasp of said information, but I would argue that method requires as much attention as does content, and that just because post-secondary instructors often include more content does not indicate that it takes more "education" to teach at a university level. Although it is not a requirement here, several Colleges of Education require a previous degree to enter, and I would estimate that half of the people in my program have a degree already. Most of us have spent seven years to get two degrees, the same as many masters students who teach in university. I think the excuse that university is more content-driven has been used to justify a lot of bad teaching. Yes, there is more content, and it needs to be taught in a different way than to high schoolers, but that does not make it more difficult or require more education, only different education.
Thirdly, I never stated that another degree would be necessary. You asked for a solution to the problem of how to prepare for teaching, and I supplied one: take one or two education courses. All students would have at least one or two electives open, so why not design a three-credit course similar to the Edcur or EPS courses offered for students in the College of Education to cater to the needs of TAs and university instructors? You could throw everything necessary into one three-credit course.

In conclusion, so there.

Derek out.

arimich <> said...

With Arimich, my name was Þuríðr , the one we don't let steer. This thing obviously doen't know what it's talking about; I'm a very good driver. :)

I'm a little late to the conversation, but I think that for you, auditing an Ed methods class and having a seasoned educator (aka Christopher) observe you in the classroom a few times would help in the areas you feel insecure about. You do have a good start, and you also have some fabulous resources available. Obviously, there should be standard education philosophy and methods classes available to educators in any part of the education system; since those resources aren't available to you, you'll have to improvise. And I think you'll make a fantastic teacher. I can just hear all the stories about Dr. Cotcher and her crazy classes! Love you lots, Mary.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

And the funny thing is that one of my original suggestions was one three-credit course. Huh. It's not the form of education needed that we disagree upon: it's our philosophies on the purpose of University-level courses.

Life of Turner said...

No, we agree on the philosophy. The real issue is idealism vs. realism, and the difference between how things SHOULD be and how they ARE. But then again, maybe I'm just very cynical.

Derek out.

P.S. Where has Janice been in this discussion? Conspicuously absent, methinks.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

I disagree that you're being the realist; your "realism" is based in mostly only an understanding of lower-level courses, without seeing how all of the levels fit together as a whole. And everyone who gets a degree has to take at least 300-level courses (and quite a few of them), although you can get through without the 400-level if you're not in honours.

Life of Turner said...

As previously established, my argument is based around lower-level classes. I would be willing to concede that 300-level classes do progress past the level of 100- and 200- level classes, and that there is a difference between the later levels of university and the initial levels. But I stick by my assertion that it is no more difficult to teach university than it is to teach any other level of student. Teaching university just requires different education, not more. I think we're saying more or less the same thing, just that we're focussing on two different parts of the university life. So I think we're both right. Right?

Derek out.