Monday, April 20, 2015

Teaching is a profession and a Calling

Jemma Ward writes "Teaching is a profession, not a calling" (The Forum, 14 April 2015). She suggests that teaching portrayed as a "calling" and therefore teachers are expected to work long hours for low pay. But I suggest their problem is of the teachers own making and they have the means to fix it.

Many teachers are devoted to teaching and that may be the problem with education. Teachers would do better, for their students and themselves, taking a hard-headed approach. The "educator martyr complex" exists even in higher education, where the pay is better than schools. What lecturers and teachers should be focusing on is making teaching more efficient, effective and so less frustrating for them.

After giving guest lectures at university I became fascinated and frustrated by the teaching process, with its lack of rigor and efficiency. Then I discovered the e-learning/distance education revolution. Being able to teach from home, or the other side of the world, is only part of it. The real revolution is in designing education to use student and teacher time efficiently, in the classroom, or on the Internet.

As an adjunct lecturer, I can't sit around complaining of not being paid much, as when not teaching I am not paid. So I spent years (and $10,000) learning to teach efficiently.

Talking at students for an hour is not efficient. So modern teaching uses presentations broken up into segments of six to twenty minutes. It makes no difference if these presentations are live or recorded.

Students learn better when tested regularly. So I have started using short weekly automated quizzes (chosen at random for each student, to stop them cheating). Students learn well when explaining to others, so I also have students discuss topics in an on-line forum.

Ultimately the student must be tested with a large item of work. Marking such assignments can be done much more quickly using "rubrics" (detailed marking tables). Getting stuff to and from students is easier using Learning Management System (LMS) software (I use "Moodle", a free Australian product).

This is not to say I still don't grumble about teaching, but I don't grumble as much. ;-)

For more on the future of education see my Higher Education Whisperer blog:

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