“However, many of our actions are uninformed in that they involve us teaching in certain ways simply because we have been told we ought to” (Brookfield 2006, p. 24)
This is how I felt before taking PIDP. Although my teaching was ‘good’, it felt like I was either teaching the way I had been taught or doing what felt right. Turns out, I have a pretty good teaching intuition; because what I was doing often reflected what I now know is best practice.
I had even ‘invented’, uninformed, a class activity that turns out to be a modified “Jigsaw” technique. I was always willing to try new things, but I wanted to make informed decisions. I wanted to involve students more, but didn’t know how.
The first step in that was taking these courses, to be externally informed by best practice and research. The second step would be to be better informed through critical reflection (internally with respect to the course). According to Brookfield, there are four facets to critical reflection on teaching: through (1) students and (2) colleague’s eyes, (3) research and (4) personal reflection.
As with most university courses, the only feedback on teaching I currently get is though course-end evaluations, and as discussed here, I don’t find that very useful. I definitely want to hear from students, and look forward to implementing opportunities for feedback in the near future.
Unfortunately there is really no opportunity for colleague observation. At my small college, there is no provision to provide instructors the opportunity to observe others teaching. Most are employed elsewhere, and are only on campus for the duration of their classes or other responsibilities. As part of research that I’ll be participating in about active learning, an instructor from SFU will be observing my class, but will be focused on other things most of the time.
Evidence-based research on teaching is something I have been able to get in to through PIDP courses. I was interested prior to that in reading research, but it was daunting to get started in a completely different subject area.
Finally, personal reflection on my teaching is new to me, but through PIDP courses I have been forced to begin, and (hopefully) am improving.
I have always looked for ways to improve my teaching, but was very much using a “scattergun” approach (Brookfield, 2006). Strategies I have read about through PIDP courses have given me just the tools I was looking for.
Brookfield, S. 2006. The Skillful Teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass