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Is Good Teaching Caught or Taught?

An Instructor engages with students in the classroom.

An article from The Teaching Professor, author Scott Gabriel poses this question, and suggests that “the question of whether good teaching is caught or taught draws many of us in because we gravitate toward having a definitive answer—black or white, caught or taught.” Is there, in fact, a recipe or formula, as he wonders, that will help us all become the amazing instructors that we want to be, and that our students want and expect? What goes into a recipe, if there is one? What mathematical formula gives us the inputs of knowledge, skills, and abilities (or as Gabriel says, attitudes, behaviors, and practices), and an output of an amazing teacher?

As we know from the past year, when the pandemic forced us out of the physical classroom into the virtual one, nearly all of us had to learn new skills, and learn them fast. It was with the help of our professional development offerings that many of you began to learn about all the things we do in eLearning! Now, more than a year into the pandemic, we have been refining those offerings and even inventing some new ones. Our goal remains the same – to support you in the challenges we all fact in the classroom. We begin by asking, as author Gabriel does in this article, what works? Can we “assume that what any good teacher does can be integrated by another teacher, regardless of discipline?” Here are the points he makes in his article (please note, the article was originally published pre-pandemic, when no one ever expected our world to go topsy turvy).

First, prepare and train for a long journey. No one becomes a great teacher overnight, in a quarter, or even in one’s teaching career. We build confidence along the way, and with the help of professional development, both on our campus in at conferences or professional organizations, we “recalibrate” our teaching skills. Note: recalibrate suggests that sometimes we drift “off course” so that we periodically need to adjust our practices.

Second, bring a friend along for the journey. Look around at your department colleagues. Listen to them talk about their teaching. Is there someone who talks about their teaching practices and how they are working on building student engagement strategies in their classes? Listen in committee meetings for the colleagues who talk about successful students – as them if you can “sit in” one one of their classes or look at their Canvas course. Despite years of thinking that teaching is a solitary enterprise, we have learned that building relationships with other teachers who share and mentor us and offer advice on how to improve our practices works best. Remember, good pedagogy is good pedagogy. These trusted colleagues don’t have to be in our discipline.

Remember that there is no quick fix. Like any profession, we get better with practice. We can supplement that with professional development, by looking to others to help learn what best practices are, reading the literature which abounds with information in both your discipline and overall pedagogy, and listening to student feedback. Regular reflection on our practices will allow us the opportunity to think deeply about teaching and grow into the role of the master teacher.

Read the full article here: Is Good Teaching Caught or Taught