Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Motivating the motivators

"Just tell me what will come on the exam... Just tell me the pedagogic tools I should use..."

A seminar discussing THIS paper led to an interesting discussion on teaching pedagogics. Many familiar classroom situations are recognizable also among the teachers themselves when they are taught pedagogics. There will be the highly motivated squad that uses every new trick and pedagogic tool, there will be those that are stuck in their rut and there will be the ones that only do minimal effort and would most of all like to get back to their lab. And just as we can use our fancy activation techniques to catch help students forward, you should be able to do the same with their teachers.

The thing is, teachers WANT to be good at what they do. That is part of our academic self image and, as Jerome K. Jerome reminds us, every kid wants to be the one with the pointer, telling the others what to do. And just as students, teachers want to take the easy road and just learn a few tricks when what they really need is to get into a new way of thinking.

What teachers need is again the same as what students need - supervision, help to build a culture and fora to foster communication. To what extent do course supervisors create meetings between their TAs? To what extent to heads of programs have teachers exchange pedagogic expectations with each other? To what extent do the university offer pedagogic courses and seminars?

There is a persistant idea that teaching is less valued than research. I feel the university fairly easy could take the edge of. To put it bluntly - if we are to feel that time and effort spent on education is valued we actually have to value it. At Uppsala University formal education in pedagogics is a requirement to teaching positions and it is part of the evaluation criteria for new hires. That is excellent, but more can be done. How about a fund for research money with educational professioncey as the highest prioritized selection criteria? That way researchers can put in the extra hours in education and still be able to send a PhD to a conference.

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