Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Graduate Teaching Education

While the DigPedChat on the topic is a month behind us, I am only now getting to it ;-)  So, after reading this post by Sean Micheal Morris on Digital Pedagogy I thought I would tackle some of the questions posed for discussion.  Feel free to leave a response, or link to your own blog post via comment :-)

What does it mean to perform teaching? What does it mean to perform learning? 

These are some pretty complex questions, which makes then juicy topics for discussion!  Performing Teaching has looked differently to me depending on where I look at it from, and what my own stage of development has been at a time.  As an undergraduate I would tell you that performing teaching looked like a sage on the stage. Preferably TED Talk style where the person is really engaging and he keeps yours attention focused on the subject. In the end, once the experience is complete or concluded you are left with a "wow" feeling.  As I've grown, and have been more and more on the doctoral and independent learner end of the spectrum I am not  all that certain that the sage on the stage is really what performing teaching is, at least not in all instances of teaching.  Teaching can take on a variety of shapes, forms, modes, and means.  However, I would say that the result is the same: at the end of a successful teaching performance I am left with a wow aftertaste.  I want more.  The teaching performance blows me away, fills me up, and leaves me to eagerly anticipate the next learning opportunity.  It's fine dining, where at the end of a meal you are full and content, but you foresee coming back to that establishment.

What does it mean to perform learning? I know that the programmed answer is:  As an instructional designer the "appropriate" response is that performing learning leads to a measurable change in knowledge, skills, (and/)or attitudes. However, the answer for me, really, is that "it depends".  As human beings we never stop learning.  There is formal learning that happens in schools and organized venues, or as described the other day by Gardner Campbell this could be called "study", and learning that happens every day.  When I drive through an intersection, on my way to work, and there is roadwork happening there that makes me late, I learn that I should avoid that intersection (or leave early).  While this is a change in behavior, albeit temporary while the roadwork is happening, no one taught me that.  I received some data (sensory, societal, communications, emotional, etc.) and I made decisions based on those factors. The key thing here is that performing teaching and performing learning don't necessarily have to happen in the same spatiotemporal nexus.

What does the role of a student who is also a teacher look like in a college classroom?

I assume that this question is aimed toward doctoral students who are concurrently acting in the capacity of TA (teaching assistant) and are the teachers of record for certain undergraduate courses. However, I think I'll take a more philosophical perspective and say that all teachers are students of something. Even once my doctoral degree is done (and assuming I won't go for a second one) I will still be a student.  I will be (hopefully) continuing to conduct research, and read, and write, about topics in my field.  I won't necessarily be in a classroom, but I will be a student.  That said, I think that we all wear many hats in life, in general.  So, in the classroom I can be a teacher, and outside of my classroom I can be a learner. However, I do think that (1) there are many opportunities for us, as instructors, to learn from our own classrooms, through our interactions with our learners, and through observing our learners interact; and (2) it's important to let our learners that we just don't know everything.  We are human beings, we tends to focus on things that pique our interests, and while we might know more about a specific topic compared to our learners, we can always learn more about it.  Knowledge is not finite, and as such it is important for us to acknowledge that.  We, as instructor-learners should be humble in that we don't know everything, and jump at the chance to learn with our learners as situations arise.

Should graduate teachers be made aware of their potential future in the job market? Should they be encouraged to be part of the dialogue of labor practices at the university, the community college, and in their own departments?

Reply Hazy. Try Again.  In all seriously though, I think that the actual prognostication of job markets isn't that great.  Instead of focusing on future markets which we don't know about (I for one did not think I would be where I am today back when I was an undergraduate student), we should focus on current aspects of the market, and look at those with a critical eye.  This means that graduate students, students in education, need to be part of the dialogue that takes place around the labor practices, environment, sustainability, and employability in their related fields.  If you are a PhD or EdD student and your goal is to be a professor, tenured, in higher education - you need to know that tenure track jobs don't come up that often (or so it seems to me), that adjuncts appear to be the majority of the workforce, and they are not paid that well.  Starting with your own department is not something that I would start with.  Perhaps I'd keep it in mind, but depending on how open that department is, it's potentially setting up some bad vibes between the student and the people that have power over you.  I am a firm believer in getting done with school first, before risking upsetting mentors (in case mentors are thin skinned).  Looking at academia in general, and institution second, would be my way of approaching a dialog over this. No matter how you approach it, a dialog must happen so that people have a five year plan (even if it's hazy).  They can't believe that they'll go on the tenure track if there aren't jobs on the tenure track, and we can't - as profession - be saying "Oh, they'll get a job if they are good enough" - because that severely impacts your reputation.  Why take someone into your program, and invest the time and energy to mentor them (and take their money) if you don't believe that they are good enough to get a tenure track job? Food for thought.

How can graduate teachers prepare to be pedagogues in non-teaching careers?

That's a good question.  I actually don't have an answer for that. My mental gears are turning, and I am thinking of community-based organizations, volunteering, and advocacy options - but I simply don't know at the moment.  What do others think?

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