Effective Tertiary Teaching
I am reasonably new as a teacher. I have formally been following the teaching path for the past six years. But the other day when I decided to update the teaching page of this blog I had a strange surprise… Counting everything, I actually started 11 years ago. My first experience with teaching was when I was still an undergraduate student and decided to be a tutor to the first year students. I confess at that stage I was more interested in the financial support than on the teaching itself. But now that I’ve been on this track for a reasonable time, I am sold on the idea of staying in academia. Things are also easier now of course, now I know better how to teach because we learn to teach by teaching, right? Well, sort of.
For the past two months I have been attending the Effective Tertiary Teaching workshops for professional development at Lincoln University. These workshops are the steps towards a certification for tertiary teaching. Perfect timing now that I am approaching the end of my PhD studies. The certification is constituted of a total of eight workshops:
- Effective lesson planning
- Course design
- Catering for diversity and learning styles
- Teaching small groups cooperatively
- Assessment matters
- Producing a teaching portfolio
- Becoming a reflective practitioner
- Using ICT effectively in your teaching
The workshops took one hour each and generated interesting discussions. But the most striking part of the certification has just happened to me now that we finished the classes. The final assignment required us to produce a teaching portfolio, including a teaching philosophy and reflections about the eight modules. I couldn’t help but thinking of Dr John Boereboom, the teacher, saying that producing a teaching portfolio is addictive. I didn’t believe when he said that, but now I agree. I could not stop writing about these past six years and it even made me feel guilty today as I have a thesis waiting to be completed soon and a presentation waiting to be prepared for the next week. I wish I had more time to develop this portfolio.
The process of thinking about what type of teacher I want to be, what is my philosophy, and who were the lecturers that inspired me throughout my many years as a student was almost like living all that again. This workshop served its purposes, it made me reflect and organize my thoughts around teaching practice, but most importantly it highlighted that reflection is essential and not a ‘waste of time’ as sometimes it feels. No teacher evolves without refection. No ‘excuses’ of lack of time should undermine the intentional improving.
I have seen many potential teachers saying they don’t like the idea of teaching, mostly because they are scared of it. I believe sometimes what makes teaching challenging and even unpleasant is the feeling that the classes are not working as we expected. This is where reflection and this process of identifying the weaknesses and facing the challenges can bring our ideal teaching much closer. It consequently makes teaching more pleasant.
I know I am lucky that Lincoln University offers great support in so many ways. In fact I heard this yesterday from a Brazilian friend who got to know the University’s structure. In our home country we rarely see anything like that, especially in the public universities. These guys from the Library, Teaching and Learning at LU are great, and if you have anything like that at your university, make sure to make the most of it. Thanks guys for helping me improve so much in so many ways these last three years. Lucky girl I am!