This weekend I went to Deakin University‘s Open Day.  See my previous post for details fo some of the mess this was.  One reason I did this was the intention of looking in the library and seeing what books were available for a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education as I am thinking of completing one and the Deakin one is looking good.  Deakin’s library had a copy of Ken Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do on the shelf.  I would not have recognised it, or borrowed it as it had the dust jacket removed and it somehow looked older than some of the 1990s books that were on the shelf around it.

Anyway to review Chapter 3 this week Bain considers good college teachers help students learn, the process is about the learning and not the teaching.  Bain actually raises in the preparing to teach a number of questions that good teachers raise to help people learn.  These are (courtesy of Scott McKnight here and here):

1. Good teachers plan backwards: from what they want students to be able to do. How do we encourage students to answer big questions and develop skills to do that?

2. What reasoning abilities do students need to answer this in this course?

3. What mental models do our students bring to the table and how can we help them in our challenge to those mental models?

4. What information is needed and what is the best way to gain that information?

5. How can we help students who will struggle with the questions of the course and with the methods needed to answer those questions?

6. How do we help students comprehend various views of the subject and grapple with the issues

7. How do we discover what our students know already and expect and how do we reconcile our differences?

8. How do we help students “learn to learn”? To assess themselves?

9. How can we learn what they are learning, give feedback, before we assess/grade our students?

10. How do we communicate with students in a way that will keep them learning and thinking?

11. How do we spell out our discipline’s professional standards? Why do we use these standards? How do we help students assess their own work in light of these standards?

12. How will we and the students best understand the nature, progress, and quality of their learning?

13. How can we create a natural critical learning environment?

These are non trivial questions that I still need to go back to and consider.  Some of these address issues I am wrestling with in units I teach this semester.

For me to reflect on this I think of some of by bad experiences and good one.  The one story I will give is a mixed one.  Years ago I was given and assignment to mimic how computers communicate.  The formulae were all given out and we were to have the system working for a certain date.  Somehow I realised that mine did not work as one of the formula meant that the system could crash if you did what it said all the time.  Later on the lecturer remarked that you may find that the system will crash … it is up to you to fix it.  I did.  I received reasonable marks for the exercise from memory and remember it to this day.

I was not happy about receiving incorrect information and so felt betrayed by the lecturer.  While it is quite obvious I learnt something about how to reason and solve problems in this field it was not a good experience.  This put me off this field of computing quite a bit.  The learning happened but it did so at a cost not worth it to me.

So are you teaching for others to learn or teaching for the sake of teaching?