Welcome to the Otis teaching blog. This blog is similar to a faculty lounge where we can come to talk about teaching and particularly what are some of the best practices at Otis. (There’s only so much you can accomplish while waiting for the elevators or in the stairwell!)
What are Best Teaching Practices and why should we care? I believe most of us teach at Otis because we genuinely care about the students and their learning (and I can say from experience that is not true of all colleges). However, as faculty we come with many different backgrounds and levels of preparation. I distinctly recall the very first time I walked into my own class (18 years ago, when I was mere 16). I was excited and intimidated. It was then I realized teaching was both an art and a science and became interested in pedagogy, or “the art or science of being a teacher, generally refer[ring] to strategies of instruction or a style of instruction.” Up until then I must confess that I assumed if you knew your content, you could watch others do it, use them as a model, and then call upon some teaching gene and perform effortlessly. Though my evals were good and the students seemed to learn, I felt like a fraud, albeit one clever at disguising my inexperience. This was the first time I had the “teaching naked” dream (and in my 18 years of teaching. I’ve become quite the exhibitionist, usually just before the semester begins).
Skip this paragraph if unbridled ego makes you revisit meals past. I can’t say for sure if I am a really good department chair, wife, mother, sister, friend, or neighbor, but I am certain I am really great teacher. I certainly didn’t start out great, just good and motivated to get better; a characteristic that encourages me to improve every semester along with my willingness to be a reflective practitioner, looking at what worked, what didn’t, and keeping up the ever growing literature on best practices in teaching and student learning.
So how do I know that I am really, really good at it? Consistently high student evaluations (though I’ve been getting more and more with emoticons on them, a disturbing trend for an English teacher. Did I not teach you to express yourself?), anonymous sites like “Rate My Professor” and “Grade My Professor” (I must confess the chili pepper buoyed me. At my age, those kinds of things are important)? Though all interesting the reason I am confident I am good is because over the years I’ve, slowly, sometimes painfully identified the characteristics that make teaching effective. Nevertheless, I know I can be better and am very interested in learning what works (or does not) for other faculty at Otis.
I also believe that the basics of great teaching cross disciplinary boundaries and departments. The methodologies are very similar, only the content changes. In addition to anecdotal evidence for practice, I’d like to share some of the research that I have done about teaching.
Feel free to comment, help me out, ask questions, and suggest topics. Because I have no personal life but Otis, I thought I would like to cover a range of topics that might be of interest from the beginner to the experienced practitioner. Other possible topics I am interested in are learning styles, assessment, information literacy, writing across the curriculum, the new Integrated Learning curriculum at Otis, ESL learners in the classroom, technology and teaching, active learning, layered curriculum, what should Liberal Studies be in the 21st century, and what should be “core” at an art and design college?