Re-post from, titled “Imagine”

Posted on June 23, 2009 by

Silvia Tolisano’s recent post “Never was about technology – Time to focus on learning” raises the question of technology’s true contribution to the teaching/learning process. However, it was a quote from Conor Bolton that caught my attention and led me down a specific path of ideas:

Poor teaching + technology = Expensive poor teaching

I would have to agree with Mr. Bolton. Simply adding a specific technology to our instructional strategies does not automatically result in improved student learning outcomes. If anything, I am convinced we need to make improving our teaching skills a high priority. Just as we encourage our students to engage in methodical metacognitive habits, we should be engage in ongoing self-evaluation of our teaching, as well as researching and implementing sound pedagogical praxis. Perhaps the best teachers are also the best learners.

The specific path my thought followed after reading Ms. Tolisano’s post is probably somewhat afield of her intent, but it went something like this:

  • We tend to teach as we were taught
  • Outside schools of education, most academic disciplines do not teach one how to teach
  • Most colleges/universities require only advanced or terminal degrees in a discipline in order to teach. Good pedagogical skills are not.
  • Many faculty are not comfortable admitting they need to improve their teaching skills.
  • Many institutions keep faculty so busy with teaching loads, advising, committees, research, etc. that finding time to improve teaching skills is difficult.

What would happen if an institution adopted a 5 year plan in which all faculty were required to both successfully complete a program of professional development designed to make them master teachers, and implement their master teacher skills in the classroom or online?

Granted, such a 5 year program would need to cover a broad range of issues, and I am not sure what would be covered. But, I think a radical approach that puts the importance of teaching quality on par with being an expert in a given discipline would put feet on institutional claims of excellence.

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