Teaching: A Path to Learning

Becoming A Lifelong Learner

Flow chart of inquiry while acknowledging fear of information overload

Acknowledge a fear of information overload and choose inquiry!

Context

My past fourteen years teaching for the School of Business at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) has been a key learning experience for me, diverse and  rewarding. This reflection examines this experience for deeper learning about my skills, knowledge, and values.

I was initially hired because my experience with software applications qualified me to step-in where someone else had ducked-out, mid-semester. I began teaching with a B.S. in Computer Science and later earned an M.A. in English.

Since 1999 I’ve:

Taught diverse courses:

  • BUS 200: Intro to BUS Computing: Information literacy and technology skills.
  • BUS 299: Excel Spreadsheet: Spreadsheet skills.
  • BUS 308: Computer Information Systems: Information Management skills.
  • BUS 498: Internship Experience: Guided reflection and research related coursework, internship, and career goals.
  • BUS 304: Reading, Writing, & Crit Thinking/BUS II: Written and Oral communication focused primarily in a critical thinking context.

Participated on several campus committees:

  • Critical thinking workshops
  • ePortfolio committee
  • Technology/Information learning community
  • Search committee for campus-wide Advising Director
  • Tech/info ULR committee

Spent several years managing advising for our department:

  • approved student learning plans
  • trained and managed student peer advisors
  • collaborated with other advising bodies as well as the registrar’s office, and the campus career center
  • participated in informational events at local high schools

Explicit Skills and Knowledge

The large range of skills and knowledge used, initiated, or enhanced by my responsibilities as an adjunct faculty member at CSUMB seems consistent with my sense of always learning something new in this role.

  • Intellectual Skills: All are integral to teaching, special projects and committee work.
  • Sustainable Knowledge: increased through coursework, and department and campus events and goals
  • Helping Individuals: integral to teaching
  • Civic Knowledge and Engagement: increased through committee involvement
  • Ethical Reasoning and Action: increased through coursework and some professional dilemmas.
  • Intercultural Knowledge and Competence: increased through coursework and professional context
  • Philosophy, Education, and Psychology: increased through coursework,  faculty workshops, and professional context

Outcomes

The dynamic, stimulating environment of our CSUMB campus combined with the excellent leadership and collaboration of our faculty in the School of Business have provided countless opportunities for growth. So many kinds of challenges confront teachers: challenges of subject mastery, interpersonal relations, course management, learner engagement, differing learning needs, and changing institutional demands. Many times when faced with a new challenge, I balk, thinking, “NO! I don’t want to do that –!” However, a long time ago I discovered that when I embrace a new challenge that falls in my path, amazing, unexpected rewards follow. When I sidestep a new challenge and opt for an “easy out” I invariably experience either a sterile “dead” period or worse. Addressing challenges requires learning new skills and knowledge,  which, from my experience,  in spite of any frustrations and disappointments, always seems to result in  fertile feelings of growth and fulfillment.

Taking a Deeper Look

Aspects of teaching that have been easy for me include organizing my courses,  guiding learners through specific individual activities, and learning to set some necessary boundaries. More challenging aspects include developing more engaging and effective in-class activities and new ways to teach concepts, as necessary. The most challenging part of teaching, that has led me the closest to dreaming of exit plans, is facing student work that falls far short of acceptable quality, uncertain how to respond. However, I’ve recently had epiphanies that change my perspective on this issue.

An “a-ha” experience that changed how I approach teaching was realizing that learners need not only instruction, but effective, individual feedback on their understanding of all of the fundamental elements of a larger project, before they can effectively develop the larger project.

This sounds obvious. Someone probably could have taught me this sooner. Although I’ve been teaching for 14 years, only in the past few years have I availed myself of opportunities to learn more about the art of teaching from other people and other resources. Previously, I’ve learned primarily from trial and error. My lack of inquiry into the scholarship of teaching and learning is an example of the same kind of fear of information overload I described in my Yoga discussion. I did not consciously acknowledge that I was choosing NOT to learn teaching methods and improve my courses. Instead, afraid of information overload, from the vast field of learning science, I ignored the issue. A certain rigidity accompanies my organization skills. I am attracted to straight forward, defensible solutions to well structured problems. When I ponder integrating new teaching strategies, I wonder,  where does the need for change and improvement end?

Perhaps the need for change and improvement never ends! I’ve recently read some formal discussions about reflection and had the opportunity to consciously understand that a habit of suspended judgement, supporting ongoing inquiry, is necessary for true reflective judgement. But such ongoing inquiry is only possible if I can accept the “discomfort” of suspended judgement, which may be the root of my fear of information overload.

Note: This post is one of three developed as part of my personal example of exploring key learning experiences for deeper self-awareness. The steps for the project will be described in detail on a page of this site.

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