Friday, December 30, 2011

The quest for becoming a better teacher

What I should be doing is the final assignment for the course in the basics of university pedagogy. What I am doing is this. I hope writing this blog will clarify my thoughts enough to be able to finish the actual assignment.

I have been teaching undergraduates now and then for more than ten years. Mostly I have had one or two course in an academic year, often a parallel course to a university one in the open university. I think my first courses were pretty straightforward - I did it as I had seen it being done, and did not come to think that there might be something more to teaching. However, then I had the luck of having some really good teachers in Leicester, and ever since I have been attempting to get better at what I am doing. So I was delighted when I, after two previous attempts, finally got accepted to a five-credit course in university pedagogy.

It turned out that the course would require quite a lot of work, and since my autumn was going to be busy, I wondered if I should drop the whole thing. However, expecting to be parted with my beloved Alma Mater next year, I decided to tackle it. Should have known better. Between my "part-time" research job, teaching and other things I had to take up to manage to keep my nose above the surface financially (not to mention family responsibilities), I really did not have the time I should have devoted to the course to do it well. 

Neither was the course quite what I expected. It turned out that rather than giving us skills in teaching it was aimed as an introduction to the field of research called university pedagogy. From the viewpoint of academic achievement the course has not been a huge success for me. Most of the time I have felt a little lost with the assignments, which is probably reflected in the quality of my output. From the viewpoint of personal development I think I am doing a little better. I might not be able to write a theoretical treatise on  teaching in higher education, but that was not my goal, anyway. I did not want to become a researcher in university pedagogy, I just wanted to become a better teacher, and towards that end I think I have gained some useful tools, which I intend to apply as soon as I start teaching again - in a couple of weeks. It is a course I have always thought I would love to teach, so it will be interesting to see if I can impart some of my enthusiasm to the students.