Creating Courses for Adults
Readers of Creating Courses for Adults will learn a systematic approach to lesson and course design based on research into the ways adults learn and the best ways to reach them, along with pointers and tips for teaching adults in any setting.
Creating Courses for Adults
All About You
It has always seemed right to me to think of teaching as a craft. For any craft, one of the most important aspects is having the right tools and knowing how to use them to their best advantage. As a simple example, having high-quality masking tape makes it far easier to paint a house, but you need to know that it must be removed before the paint is completely dry if you don't want to leave marks (and bits of tape stuck to your walls). One of the differences between teaching and other crafts is that the main tools are the educators themselves. When you are teaching, your personality, your approach, and your values influence the form and outcomes of the process. This is such an important aspect of teaching that it makes a huge difference to be aware of who you are as a teacher and how those strengths may play out in the classroom.
This chapter lays out the importance of the educator's experience and philosophy in shaping the educational process, and leads readers through some options for knowing more about who they are as educators.
By the end of this chapter you will
Understand the importance of who you are to the way you teach
Know why reflection on your practice matters
Have some ideas about how to use your experience Why Who You Are and What You've Done Matters
When somebody walks into a room to start instruction, he brings his history with him. On the factory floor, the senior employee asked to train new employees has received training in the past and also has experience of working in the factory. The football coach talking to the team is drawing on knowledge and experience of coaching as well as a great deal of time watching games and usually playing as well. The charge nurse orientating new nurses to ward procedures is drawing on work experience, standard procedures, and the way she herself was trained when she arrived. In each case, the educator has a huge range of experiences as well as many hours of formal and informal learning to draw upon.
These background factors can make a big difference to the ways people teach. The overall approach people bring to teaching includes their actions, their beliefs, and their intentions (Pratt, 2002). Actions are observable, and it intuitively makes sense that they demonstrate the approach of the teacher, but beliefs and intentions may not be so obvious. Beliefs, in this context, are the assumptions the individual makes about the purposes and processes of education, and intentions are the outcomes the educator hopes for. Many educators assume that participants learn only from their actions, because these actions represent deliberate communication. Learners do more than this: they learn from the whole context, and that context is shaped by beliefs and intentions. This can be illustrated by thinking about a trades class where the instructor is strongly anti-union. In this case the students learn about installing drywall, but the instructor will choose examples and frame teaching in a way that does not acknowledge the unionized reality of most of the students' working lives. Even if nothing explicit is ever said, the students will pick up on the lack of references and most likely get the message.
One influential factor is the educator's own educational experience. Somebody who did well at school when she was young, tended to be friendly with teachers, and enjoyed reading and writing will have a particular view of teaching and learning. An educator who disliked school, was uncomfortable with the authority of teachers, and hated sitting still at a desk will have a very different perspective. These differing views make a huge difference to the sort of teaching these educators design and deliver, from the objectives through the process to the ways that learning is assessed. We could imagine that the first educator would be quite h