The art of teaching and learning

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  • The Social Science Journal 41 (2004) 689694Presidential Address

    The art of teaching and learning

    As a faculty member my heart and love belong to teaching and students, hence, my title,The Art of Teaching and Learning. In his book, The Courage to Teach, Palmer (1998),states the following in his introduction:

    Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from ones inwardness, for better or worse.As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way ofbeing together. The entanglements I experience in the classroom are often no more or less thanthe convolutions of my inner life. Viewed from this angle, teaching holds a mirror to the soul.If I am willing to look in that mirror and not run from what I see, I have a chance to gainself-knowledgeand knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as knowing my studentsand my subject (pg. 2).

    In essence, we are what we teach. We choose our career for reasons of the heart, because wecare deeply about our discipline and the students we teach. As I reflect on my own teaching,answering certain questions have motivated me to think more deeply about my philosophy ofteaching and the teaching models I utilize. Following are some reflective questions, posed byPalmer (1998):

    How can I keep deepening my capacity to teach and learn? How can I preserve my joy and loveof teaching? How can I grow as a teacher, and as a human being, feed the yearning that I havefor connectedness, and nurture forms of community that support teaching and learning.

    For me, the answers to these questions help form the basis for my teaching philosophy andthe choice of teaching models I use.

    1. My philosophy and teaching models

    I consider myself a teacher, both inside and outside the classroom, and in my interactionswith others. Genuine teaching comes from the heart and reflects the inner work of a lifetime. Itemerges from ones inwardness. One of the key dimensions of social work is use of self. It iscentral to what I teach and, therefore, I must be comfortable with my use of self. I believe that I

    Presidential address: 46th Annual Conference.

    0362-3319/$ see front matter 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.soscij.2004.08.001

  • 690 Presidential address / The Social Science Journal 41 (2004) 689694

    must demonstrate an effective use of self to my students both inside and outside the classroom.I am a role model of how I expect them to interact. Experience has taught me that teachingis a relational process of refining myself and my students. I might use other techniques in myteaching but learning takes place in the relational process. Good teaching cannot be reducedto technique alone; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher. Whenwe learn more about who we are, we can learn techniques that reveal rather than conceal thepersonhood from which good teaching comes (Palmer, 1998).

    Philosophy precedes practice, therefore, let me take a moment and share my philosophy ofteaching.

    My pedagogical paradigm is based on a feminist perspective of collaborative, cooperative,democratic, connected, and relational approaches to learning. I utilize a student-centered teach-ing approach, moving passive learners to active students. I consider myself a facilitator in thelearning process. I believe that traditional teacher-dominated practices do not facilitate growthand development at the level we expect. I believe that active students learn more. I use criticalthinking, problem-solving, communication, and teamwork to keep students actively involvedin learning. Effective college teaching is based on a combination of use of self and developingrapport with students. Without positive rapport, the effectiveness of teaching is diminished.For me having a positive attitude towards students, my profession, and my life in general isessential for successful teaching, it is a reflection of my inner self. I try to share this outlookwith my students and treat them with dignity, courtesy, and competence.

    My teaching methodology emerges from my inner core and is active rather than passive.I teach from a model of active learning, which fosters student growth, classroom interaction,and the creation of opportunities for individualized learning. Active learning involves morethan teaching a subject matter, it guides students on an inner journey toward seeing and beingin the world around them.

    2. The faculty role

    As professors in higher education we are expected to be both effective and efficient in threecore areas:

    1. Scholarship, which is the main mission of higher education.2. Teaching, which seems to be related more to the publics central vision of higher educa-

    tion, and varies according to each individual faculty members role.3. Service, which is considered to be a reciprocal partnership between higher education and

    the public.

    When we consider the current state of affairs in teaching, I think we are all aware of the attitudesof our state legislators. They have been pushing for reform in university teaching for manyyears. The main focus of this reform has been on preparing professors to teach an increasingnumber of undergraduate students. Robert J. Braun, education editor for the Newark SundayStar-Ledger, summarized the situation in an editorial dated July 19, 1987:

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    Ironically, teachingthe art or science of pedagogyis not even considered a worthy objectof study among college faculty. . . .College teachers, or at least most of them, do not learnhow to teach; they study their discipline and then are afflicted on undergraduates with theassumption that knowledge of subject matter will cover a multitude of sins involving a lack ofknowledge about the presentation of that subject matter. Teaching has never counted for much inhigher education or in the careers of those who work in higher education. Students appreciategood teachers, but institutions have not. When college faculty members present themselvesfor reappointment, promotion, or tenure, what is evaluated are indicators of scholarship, notpedagogy. How extensively a man or woman has published is considered more important thanhow effectively he or she has taught. The college faculty members who devote their time toimproving their instructional presentations have short careers.

    I think, in many cases, that the preceding statement reflects the reality of the dilemma,between scholarship and teaching, we face as faculty. I personally see them as intertwinedand reinforcing each other. As university faculty, we recognize the importance of teachingand I think we need to be more proactive in helping the administration recognize and rewardeffective teaching. Perhaps, as a society, we need to re-think the order of our priorities in highereducation. If we were to move teaching up in the list of priorities, we would think more aboutthe classroom conditions we create and consider what conditions will increase our teachingeffectiveness and student engagement in the learning process. In fact, in many ways academicculture discourages us from living connected lives, which creates distance between us, ourstudents, and our subject. Some of the obvious structures that distance us are the gradingsystem, competition, and bureaucracy. Although these structures can be barriers, we must notallow the outer world to be more powerful than the inner world.

    When the outer world becomes more powerful, a teaching crisis is created. Several factorscontribute to this teaching crisis. First, faculty are not properly trained in the effective methodsof good teaching. In my doctoral coursework, I had one class on the methodology of teaching.Second, teaching is not valued in institutions of higher education at a realistic level that wouldencourage faculty time and commitment to effective teaching. Third, we have not developed asuccessful academic model of good teaching that would be an accepted standard in institutionsof higher education. Finally, the emphasis on what is most critical to success, as a facultymember, is dictated from the top down and is one size fits all. Regardless of these factors,individual faculty members can create a model that transcends this crisis in teaching and movebeyond the accepted traditional paradigm.

    3. A new paradigm of good teaching

    So what is good teaching? Based on the literature, I would like to share some ideas that beginto answer this question. Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson (1987), developed sevenprinciples of good practice in undergraduate education based on research of what constitutesgood teaching and learning in colleges and universities. These principles were developed asguidelines to improve teaching and learning. Following are the seven principles:

    1. Encourage contact between students and faculty. Student motivation and involvement isinfluenced by frequent student-faculty contact in and out of class.

  • 692 Presidential address / The Social Science Journal 41 (2004) 689694

    2. Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students. Good learning is collaborative andsocial. It is a team effort. It sharpens thinking and understanding.

    3. Encourage active Learning. Learning is not a spectator sport. Students must make whatthey learn a part of themselves.

    4. Give prompt feedback. Appropriate feedback all through a course is essential for growthand development.

    5. Emphasize time on task. Time plus energy equals learning.6. Communicate high expectations. Expect more and you will get more.7. Respect diverse talents and ways of learning. There are many roads to learning. Using a

    variety of instructional processes such as role-playing, presentations, cooperative groups,discussions, debates, and storytelling provides students the opportunity to show theirtalents and learn in ways that work for them (Chickering & Gamson, 1987).

    I believe that these seven principles are part of the paradigm that create good teaching.Effective teachers possess the capacity for connectedness with their students and choose meth-ods and principles, like the ones listed above, that encourage students to become involvedand actively engaged with class material. Connected, engaged, and involved students learn.To reinforce this point let me explore two contrasting pedagogical paradigms, traditional vs.student-centered. The goal of traditional pedagogy is to transfer information and attitudes toour students through our technique. The philosophy of this pedagogy is centered on teachercontrol and passive students. Students tend to be uninvolved and have less rapport with theprofessor. I would say that this pedagogy is based more on the outer self than the inner self ofthe teacher.

    In contrast, student-centered pedagogy focuses on teacher interaction and involved stu-dents. It moves from a model of passive learning to active learning. The teacher providesguidance and structure but students take responsibility for learning. It is centered on fos-tering student growth and individualization of learning by weaving a web of connectedness(Wankat, 2002).

    I believe that connectedness is the one determining factor that makes the difference in anyoutcome whether in it be in teaching, therapy, or everyday interactions at work, home, and play.Student-centered pedagogy reflects the inner self of the teacher. Student-centered pedagogyis directly related to a feminist pedagogy which is centered on connected knowing where weutilize experiential and relational modes of thought. Connected knowing is grounded in feministtheory, as the basis for a multidimensional and positional view of the construction of classroomknowledge (Maher & Tetreault, 1994). A feminist perspective is a useful way of understandingthe work of teaching. The work of teaching is not only about managing the classroom anddelivering the curriculum but about managing and negotiating identities and selves (Coffey &Delamont, 2000). In this, we seek alternative classroom practices like collaboration. Utilizing acombination of student-centered and feminist perspectives constructs an interactive pedagogybased on active learning.

    Taking a closer look at the model of active learning will help us to conceptualize the learningprocess in a way that can assist professors in identifying meaningful forms of active learning.Following is a figure of the model of active learning:

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    A model of active learningExperience of: Dialogue with:Doing SelfObserving Others

    This model consists of two main components, experience and dialogue. There are two mainkinds of experience in active learning, observing and doing. Observing happens when wecreate conditions in the classroom that allow students to watch or listen to someone else do-ing something related to their learning. For example, in social work, students observe eachother doing roleplays. The doing part happens when the learner actually does something. Af-ter the student observes the roleplay, they do the roleplay. Dialogue consists of two differentkinds of dialogue, one with self and one with others. For example, after the roleplay is com-pleted the student is given an opportunity to dialogue with self, where they reflect on whathappened. In other words, one gets a chance to think about ones own thinking. Then, in di-alogue with others, one has the chance to connect with anothers thinking in a small groupforum. I promote this model as it is directly related to a student-centered and feminist ped-agogy, as related to connected knowing, experiential methodology, and relational modes ofthought.

    Another model that reflects a good teaching paradigm and is closely allied with activelearning is Lowmans two-dimensional model of college teaching. Following is a figure of themodel:

    Lowmans two-dimensional model of college teachingIntellectual excitement A combination of presentation style and content in ones teaching Inspiring students, initiating a spirit of inquiry, showing students how to think, and acting

    authentically in ones teachingRapport building A collaboration process which creates a sense of safety and association with others and

    promotes learning in the classroom

    Teaching in this model is a combination of intellectual excitement and rapport building. The firstdimension of intellectual excitement is utilizing a combination of presentation style and contentin ones teaching. Great teachers use style and content to inspire their students, initiate a spirit ofinquiry, show students how to think, act authentically, and demonstrate a passion for learning.Student-faculty interactions are also an important part of teaching and learning. The second di-mension of rapport building is based on a collaborative process in the work of teaching. Positiverapport creates a sense of safety and association with others which promotes learning. Activelearning processes create a setting where professors and students naturally develop rapport be-cause of the increased opportunities to collaborate and learn from each other. Both intellectualexcitement and rapport building can be critical dimensions of excellence in the classroom. Ateacher with a high level of these two dimensions can be more effective in the work of teaching.

  • 694 Presidential address / The Social Science Journal 41 (2004) 689694

    4. Conclusion

    In conclusion, may I share with you a quote by T.H. White from The Once and Future King:The best thing for being sad, replied Merlyn. . . is to learn something. That is the only thingthat never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at nightlistening to the disorder of your veins,. . .you may see the world around you devastated by evillunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thingfor it then-learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which themind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and neverdream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you.

    I have shared with you some philosophy, pedagogy, and models that I feel give us anopportunity to transform the students that we teach. We facilitate a transformation not only inregard to the discipline we teach but in reference to the life itself. When we teach from theheart and reflect our inner self, we invite students to discover, explore, and find their own innerself. For me, this is the essence of teaching. It is not just what I do, it is who I am, a teacher.

    References

    Coffey, A., & Delamont, S. (2000). Feminism and the classroom teacher: Research, praxix and pedagogy. Londonand New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

    Maher, F. A., & Tetreault, M. K. (1994). The feminist classroom. New York: Basic Books, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

    Palmer, P. J. (1998). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teachers life. San Francisco, CA:Jossey-Bass.

    Wankat, P. C. (2002). The effective, efcient professor: Teaching, scholarship, and service. Allyn and Bacon.

    Diane Calloway-Graham (WSSA President)Department of Sociology Social Work and Anthropology

    Utah State University, UMC 0730Logan, UT 84322, USA

    Tel.: +1 435 797 2389; fax: +1 435 797 1240E-mail address: diancall@hass.usu.edu

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