Sunday, April 08, 2012
encouraging better practice in teaching
practising teachers should be encouraged to use reflective journal writing as part of their daily professional teaching experience. Nooreiny Maarof, “Telling his or her story through reflective journals,” International Education Journal, 2007, 8(1), 205-220.
My brother from New Zealand is staying for the weekend. A trained high school teacher, with a deep passion for education, and a particular focus on outdoor education and life skills, I always enjoy hearing what he’s thinking and wrestling with.
Today, we discussed the place of student feedback. As we were sharing notes, he commented on a new initiative among high school teachers in New Zealand. Teachers are being expected to keep a journal, in which they reflect on their daily teaching.
It struck me as a brilliant initiative and I began to think about it in terms of tertiary education, and in particular for us teaching staff at Uniting College.
I have often reflected how you need no qualifications to be a tertiary educator, other than expertise in a particular field. Which potentially makes for some very, very bad teaching. Sure, in a tertiary institution, we receive feedback from students, in the form of class evaluations. But this is often highly individual, a teacher receives it, but it is up to them if they do anything with this information.
Last month at Uniting College, we added a quality management step, in that we are requiring teachers to, upon receipt of feedback, complete a one page form reflecting on what they did well and what they might like to change.
But that occurs at the end of a course. What if it was supplemented by the use of a journal, in which teachers reflected on what they hope to achieve in each class, what actually happened, and what they are learning about the art of teaching? For us at Uniting College, it could also include linking to our particular focus on forming leaders. How did what we do – in class and informally – help us in the task of leadership formation? How did it build on what students already bring to the class? What “sacred moments” were we part of creating?
This could then be shared with a peer on a regular basis, throughout a semester, for discussion and mutual support. It would not be tied to performance, but simply a way to encourage reflection on practice and with a peer.
Advantages could include a constant reminder of why we exist, reflection on our practice, peer support in our task, and learning from the best practice of each other.
Thoughts? And what other ideas have you come across for encouraging better teaching practice at tertiary/Seminary level?
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