15 July 2006

Dirty little secrets

There is a dirty little secret in higher education. We professors are not given formal training on how to be a teaching dynamo. It doesn't matter what the medium is, whether it's teaching online, via video, or in-class. We are given no formal training.

I can honestly say that I was given more training for my waitressing gig at a chain restaurant. But I digress.

Instructors, if they have had involved and competent advisors during their Masters or PhD programs, might stand a better chance at knowing what they're doing because of that mentoring. That only works if the advisor is a good instructor themselves. Not always the case. As a result, there are now many books and articles available on the methodology of teaching. I hope to give reviews of the good and the bad and let you know what has worked for me and why.

The good news for students in higher education is that most of their professors start teaching while working on their Masters or PhD program. Professors also generally start teaching in a professional manner shortly after they have left the classroom as students. In the vein of "when I'm a parent, I'm going to do it different," good professors will attempt to avoid the pitfalls that they experienced as students. However, most of the time, it's not the big things that students react to, it's the little things. It's wearing a hat low on the forehead. It's looking down at your notes when a student is asking a question. It's when you as the professor are not being an active listener. Yes, a prepared professor is good. But we have to also be aware of what non-verbal cues we are giving our students.

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