Four classes into ID and I’m developing a whole new respect for teachers. Not only does one need to be knowledgeable about a subject matter in order to teach it, but a teacher must also possess a certain degree of understanding about how his or her students learn in order to successfully impart knowledge. The Dunlosky, Rawson, Marsh, Nathan and Willingham article on “Improving Students’ Learning with Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions from Cognitive and Educational Psychology” was an interesting read. It was fascinating to learn about the various approaches from “elaborative interrogation” to “interleaved practice” and how the researchers arrived at the general utility of each. Perhaps, even more fascinating was reflecting upon my own learning experiences and what techniques I have utilized and found most valuable. Although I was not surprised to read that the authors found “practice testing” to be of high utility, it was somewhat disappointing to learn that they considered “highlighting” to be of low utility. I’m an avid highlighter and I don’t think this information will deter me from continuing this practice – especially in combination with re-reading.
Nevertheless, that was just one small aspect of what a good teacher should have knowledge of in order to be successful at teaching. I also think that teachers must possess abilities in designing their courses, outlining goals and objectives, incorporating effective teaching strategies which engage their learners, and identifying appropriate assessment tools. Add to this, some highly developed communication skills so that a cognitive, social and teaching presence is maintained throughout a course. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to paint an idyllic picture of the “super teacher” to whose standards no one could rise. Rather, I am struck with how profoundly complex and challenging a task it is to actually effectively teach something.
Add to all this, the even greater challenges which technology has brought to teaching. Digital media has certainly altered ways in which information can be provided and introduced new resources which assist students in their learning, as well as created new opportunities for demonstrating knowledge and/or skill. For both the new and older teacher this is somewhat of a double edged sword. In order for technology to be effectively incorporated into course design, there must be some knowledge and skill on both the part of the teacher and student to ensure that it is both instructive and beneficial. There was a brief discussion in our last class about how instructional designers work with teachers to develop courses. I recognize that there is an art to instructional design and that especially in the age of digital media, there are a unique set of skills required for the successful ID professional. However, I envision their skill set being similar to that of the teacher, for how can you assist in the design of an effective learning environment without a good grasp on what it takes to impart knowledge? At this point, I’m thinking the more an instructional designer knows about teaching, the better designer they will be.
Of all the professions which one might associate with the need for lifelong learning, I would think that teaching would be somewhere at the top of the list. I’ve not always thought of how lofty an aspiration it was to want to be a teacher but my thinking is changing. Hats off to all the teachers who have inspired and nurtured me along in my learning journey – I’m finding a whole new respect for you all.