I have currently attended four library instruction courses, and I can honestly say it has been an interesting experience. It is cool to see how, even though most people are teaching the same things, they all approach it differently. It really goes back to what our readings have been on the past few weeks. Everyone has their own teaching style, and they use their own style to effectively reach different kinds of students. Some are more hands on and interactive with the students while other people I observed kind of let the students learn on their own and then had them come back with their personal discoveries.
Just by chance, most of the classes I attended were the introduction to the library classes. I liked getting to see how each instructor taught Scout. Some would focus closely on scholarly journals while others liked to have students focus on learning how to use inner library loans or the citations in Scout. Overall, it was a very positive experience, and I learned a lot not just from the classes but from the library instructors themselves like how they each brought their own knowledge, enthusiasm, and personality into the classroom.
An idea I really enjoyed from the chapter, was the idea of meeting students where they are in their learning. Starting with what students know, or think they know about a subject, and then slowly expanding that can help students not only relate the material they’re learning back to their own lives, but it can also make difficult subjects easier to understand. Rather than starting with some huge unknown that will leave students overwhelmed, beginning with something students care about or are passionate about will make them more engaged with the material. This helps students put complex ideas or concepts into their own words first and then gradually connecting it with more complex problems, theories, ideas, etc. Doing this makes assignments more than just a requirement students have to get through. Instead, schoolwork becomes something they can care about and use to better understand their own lives.
Along this same vein, is the idea that this learning style helps students build an understanding of the subject or material rather just performing the required tasks for the class. One point the chapter made is how some teachers have the “guess what’s on my mind” method of teaching. This style of teaching causes students’ work to just copy or mimic whatever the professor gives them in class. They become smaller versions of their teacher because they’re more worried about just doing the assignment correctly in the way the teacher wants. Many students will lose their academic and personal identity in class because they are terrified of getting the wrong answer. This type of teacher expects students to be able to read their minds, which removes students ability to bring their own life experiences, passions, and ideas to the classroom.
Lastly, the chapter mentions learning that meets students where they are at gives them more control over their own education while also providing a place for them to make mistakes without fear of failure. Allowing students to fail and receive feedback in advance and separate from any judgement can help them feel more comfortable going the extra mile in their schoolwork. Students who feel like they can experiment in their work but not be judged if it doesn’t go right, are more likely to care about the work they’re doing. If they don’t have to worry about the grade, they can focus on the learning aspect of the assignment.
The section that jumped out at me the most was the section on “Teaching As Design.” I liked the idea presented, which is that teachers should become designers of learning experiences. To quote the article, “Teaching-as-design” is focused on the design of tasks, situated activities, and learning outcomes.” Learning is more than just lectures and in class discussion. Thinking of design as a learning experience rather than just preparing a lesson plan opens up a whole new world of creativity and opportunity in the classroom. Just thinking about different classes I’ve taken I appreciated when teachers broke up material into different sections where part of class was a hands on assignment, then there might be lecture, later there could be group discussion, or maybe some kind of interactive learning tool. Sitting in a classroom designed to help me engage not only with the material but with the people around me in more than just formal discussion, is much more stimulating and interesting.
Going off of this, one theme of the article that I liked was the idea of what teachers can do to support learning. What can teachers do not only to help students learn but also to drive and motivate them? Every student has their own learning process. Not everyone thrives in a classroom that’s completely lecture while others struggle in classes aimed solely at in class discussion. The article points out the idea of looking at students as individual learners rather than just an entire class. This can help teachers identify students level of understanding as well as encounter their limitations. Tying this back to my first point, if teachers focus on individual students by giving them multiple ways to learn and grow in the classroom, students are more likely to feel comfortable and engaged with the material they’re learning.
Overall, I enjoyed the article and many of the points raised by the author. It made me think not only about the teaching profession differently, but I also started looking at teachers in a different light. One illustration given by the author, let readers see things from a teacher’s perspective in a classroom. He talked about how in class he sometimes feels awkward or that he is not doing things right. Many times, I have sat in class as the student and felt the same thing, so it was interesting to see that teachers might not have it as together as students might think.
This is what I focused on most when reading the article and what I plan to talk about here. For me, the part of the article which hit me the most was the beginning section called “Teach Beyond Technique.” One thing I found interesting about this section was when it talked about being vulnerable in the service of learning. As I mentioned above, the author’s illustration of himself in the classroom showed a vulnerability I have never seen in teachers before. This thought that there can be vulnerability in teaching was something I have never thought seriously about. Over my years in school, I have had teachers I have loved, teachers I thought were okay, and ones I never really liked. For the ones I never really liked, I could never figure out exactly why that was. I enjoyed the classes and the material we covered, but I always felt this disconnect with the professor as well as with the material.
The idea of vulnerability and what that means in school made me realize that if students cannot connect with their teachers then they will probably never connect with the subject material they are learning. If teachers want their students to be passionate about a subject, they need to show that same passion by being vulnerable with their students. Along this same line, the author mentions one time when he heard some professors arguing if sharing personal experiences in class that relate to the subject material being taught was a good idea. The author said he heard the professors say that sharing experiences was “more suited to a therapy session than to a college classroom.”
Again, this idea of vulnerability can be applied not only to teachers but also to students. Being able to take real life experiences and apply them to themes from texts or in class discussions helps so much when it comes to understanding material. Whenever I would apply material I learned back to my own life, it helped me understand what I was learning. By putting it in terms I was familiar with, I not only got a stronger grasp of the material, but it also had a deeper appreciation for what I was learning. I enjoyed this article because it showed how teaching is more than just following certain techniques, rather, teaching is about being vulnerable enough to connect with students to help them develop a passion for learning.