Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Training Tech Professionals to Teach: Part 9

In Part 8 I decided the task of designing an entire qualification in teaching for computer professionals is perhaps a bit too much. But what quantum is reasonable? What is the current practice at Australian universities to teach those who teach?

Those being prepared to teach at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) are asked to do 16 hours study over 8 weeks in the blended course "Beginning to Teach". This is aimed at Higher Degree Research (HDR) candidates (mostly PhD students) and Early Career Researchers (ECRs who already have a PhD), and who are expected to teach:
  1.  "Demonstrate understanding of some key elements of learning and how they relate to teaching and to their disciplinary context. 
  2. Plan, facilitate and evaluate a short teaching session that aligns aims and approach with outcomes. 
  3. Give and receive feedback to colleagues regarding teaching and to students regarding assessment of learning." 
From "Beginning to Teach", UNSW, 2018.
For UNSW teaching staff there is the more advanced "Foundations of University Learning and Teaching Program" (FULT). This consists of 4 modules, 10 hours study per module, over 2 to 3 weeks per module:
  1. "Student Learning and Teaching
  2. Educational Design
  3. Assessment and Feedback
  4. Reflection and Evaluation"
Curiously, the beginning and foundations courses do not appear to be aligned or nested. The assumption appears to be that all those who are teaching at university undertook basic teacher training as part of a higher degree or post-doctoral training. This assumes a traditional academic career which is increasingly rare and excludes those with non-research degrees and industry experience. A better approach perhaps would be to have the beginning course available to anyone new to teaching, not just HDRs and ECRs. That course would then form the first module of the foundation course.

The UNSW Foundations course is aligned with their Graduate Certificate in University Learning and Teaching (GCULT). The Foundations course makes up part of the content of the first part of the certificate.
UNSW also offer a "Learning to Teach Online" course via  Coursera, 3 hours per week, over 6 weeks. This appears to be designed for teachers generally, not specifically for university teachers, or those at UNSW:
"Module 1 Why is Online Teaching Important
Module 2: Open and Institutionally Supported Technologies
Module 3: Planning Online Learning
Module 4: Online Learning Activities
Module 5: Online Assessment Strategies
Module 6: Online Resources
Module 7: Engaging and Motivating Students
Module 8: Evaluation Strategies"
Athabasca University offers a similar on-line course "Technology-Enabled Learning", 3 hours per week, over 5 weeks. There is an earlier set of course materials available under a Creative Commons license.

Given that technology enabled learning is now widely adopted, it would seem reasonable to incorporate this in basic teacher training. That is, rather than teaching classroom "chalk and talk" first and then the technology as an afterthought, do it the other way around. I suggest teaching online techniques as basic teaching methods and classroom face-to-face as a variation of that.

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