critically reflective teaching
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Editor’s note: Today’s blog is Kate’s final individual entry for this year of Stories from the Front (of the Classroom). Look for our final collaborative post on Tuesday May 19. For those of us who are lucky enough to work on a traditional academic calendar, the end of ...
Editor’s note: Today’s blog is Roger’s final individual entry for this year of Stories from the Front of the Classroom. Look for our final collaborative post on Tuesday May 19. As my yearlong sabbatical in Korea comes to a conclusion, I have been thinking about the multiple seasons ...
Comparing myself to an aging piece of technology might not have been the smartest move. In the cover letter I sent with my application to Luther Seminary, I noted that I hoped that my students would someday see my teaching as they might an old computer with a disk drive ...
Developing Critical Professional Practice in Education
Date Reviewed: March 15, 2015
The authors of this volume are intent on promoting the advancement of critical professional development in higher education. They seek to accomplish this by highlighting existing practices and proposing a new model of professional development that is “critical, pragmatic, informed, and flexible” (2). The merits of this new model are said to be its nuance and its attention to the complex and constantly changing landscape of education, particularly higher education.
The volume is divided into three parts. Part One focuses on what it means to be a professional, how this term is shaped, and how the discussion surfaces in education. The authors introduce critical professional development as the places where individual growth is shown as a collaboration of individual activity, policy, and institutional and organizational reforms. In support of this model, they advocate the establishment of institutional learning spaces and support structures to achieve their goal.
Part Two explores the model’s validity through four case studies. In this section Lynne Barnes and Christine Hough join Appleby and Pilkington in providing examples of the proposed model to enhance teaching and other professional practices. Barnes discusses a training program for deaf teachers, Pilkington explores a framework for professional development, Hough describes her experience in engendering critical thinking in higher education underclassmen, and Appleby discusses her use of writing for professional development. Part Three reflects on these case studies and how they relate to the proposed model. This section also provides recommendations for the implementation of the model and its practice in various organizations.
The exploration of professionalism in Part One is dense and jargon heavy, but in this case it is a welcome exception as much of the literature on teaching and learning is filled with clichés and buzz words. The text as a whole is starkly realistic, scholarly, and pragmatic rather than idealistic. As the authors concede, the definition of critical professionalism does not contain any original components; however, it is original in its holistic and practical conceptualization of professionalism in higher education. One limit to the text’s usefulness might be its aim to address both institutional and individual practices. It seems better suited for implementation at an institutional level. Individuals without institutional influence might struggle to implement the model.
The text succeeds in providing a model that is not limited by discipline. It provides such a variety of “structures and spaces” (63) that anyone could achieve some benefit from reading the book, while a full implementation of this critical professional practice may be limited. The theory proposed in this volume has wide applicability, and is worthwhile in the fields of theology and religion. Hough’s case study was particularly insightful for those teaching theology and religion. In addition, the entire buffet of professional practices recommended in this text may not be accessible to every reader, but there is certain to be something here for the entire range of practitioners in higher education.
Achieving Excellence in Teaching: A Self-help Guide
Date Reviewed: February 26, 2015
If you are looking for a book on teaching in higher education that does not scare you off with its heft, or frustrate you with its discipline-specific content, or confuse you with so many tips your head spins, then this little book might be just the thing for you! The authors combine their 110 years of faculty development and educational experience to offer their “Ten Top Traits for Terrific Teachers,” targeting the basic dispositions, skills, and strategies that have the greatest impact on deep student learning. Furthermore, they encourage teachers to reflect on their practice with a series of rubrics and action plans: “To improve by increments you must do something” (108). Throughout, they give snapshot summaries of the best research, all in a conversational tone.
In an unusual turn, the first half of the book deals, not with mastery of content or course design, but with the internal drivers of the teacher. According to the research, teachers in the classroom have the most impact on students’ success, especially those teachers who exhibit a set of dispositions, or “positive ideologies of self, others, and the very act of teaching” (17-18). More specifically, these teachers demonstrate passion for their subject, professing, and student success; they care deeply, build excellent rapport with students and colleagues, and demand excellence from students and themselves. These dispositions can be learned.
The second half of the book addresses the more external markers of excellent teaching. The authors promote solid organization that clearly identifies student learning outcomes and directly links related assessment and learning activities (47). They promote the use of CRISP to create a unity of purpose in individual classes: Contextualize; Review; Iterate; Summarize; and Preview (49-54). They encourage teachers to be “mentors from the middle,” to assume as necessary such roles as facilitator, coach, artist, critical reflector, model, and scholar (61). The authors encourage the use of technology in service of higher-level learning goals, and they recommend the most useful and cost-effective strategies (71-77). They encourage teachers to integrate their teaching, scholarship, and service in order to stimulate student interest and to model scholarly behavior (95). They promote experimentation and welcome creativity into the classroom both by accident and by design. Finally, they invite teachers to consider their teaching environments – everything from the space in which they teach to the psychological space they create for student risk-tolerance (105-109).
While not specifically addressing educational strategies in religion and theology, this little volume compacts significant research on teaching and learning into accessible portions – enough to get started but not too much to overwhelm – with support from a concise and pertinent bibliography. And it invites readers to set plans in place for improvement and on-going assessment with its set of rubrics. The book is a useful entry point for both new and seasoned teachers to revitalize and to enhance their teaching practice. It is my choice for use in faculty development initiatives.