After reading Sarah E. Deel’s article “Finding my teaching voice”, I keep imaging what kind of teacher I will be, and what style my classroom may be like. I am also wondering if I will be a popular professor among students … I realize that there are still a lot of practices needed before I find my own teaching style. For now, I have many expectations for my future lectures. I hope that my class is well-prepared, well-structure, active and interactive, knowledgeable, effective, and full of fun. I know that I can probably be disappointed by my high expectations at the beginning of my teaching like Sarah felt. But one principle I want to stick to is to become an approachable professor to my students and always explain my teaching pedagogy at the start of a course.
Explaining the teaching strategies and purposes to students is very necessary in terms of helping them make corresponding study plans and manage their time effectively. Students will understand why they have to complete certain types of assignments and why some classes are arranged in certain ways. For the courses I did not learn well or spent too much time reluctantly, I normally did not understand why the lecturers designed certain types of assignment/project or why the lectures was designed in certain context. I was also not given opportunities to reflect my concerns and doubts until the end of the semester. I would learn more effectively and actively if I were told the purposes of teaching pedagogy.
 Figure from http://clipart-library.com/clipart/1904634.htm.
Real-world problem is not usually reflected on written exams . Incorporating the real-world tests into teaching and assessment can help students better prepare for their career, and this may also be a motivator for students to engage more with a course, especially when they intend to work in industry. My concern is that: how much teachers and professors in colleges aware of and understand the real-world problems in their own field? How difficult it is to include real-world problems into both teaching and assessments? I guess that, comparing to traditional assessments, the evaluation of students’ capability and creativity regarding solving real-world problem is more complex and challenging. Even though many classes have included real-world examples for teaching, few has examined the effectiveness of current authentic assessments.
I have a personal experience about the divergence of the real-world-problem based teaching and the authentic assessment. I have been in a Business College for my bachelor degree in Beijing, and many courses have tried to connect with the real-world practices. We had a lot of group projects on business cases, and we have even participated in a real estate planning and marketing for a famous company. Finally, I can feel that my communication and coordination skills have improved, but this course is graded mostly based on our ranking in the project competition with other groups (which was not high) and I have never received any feedback from the lecturers about our insufficient performance and how we might improve. Now as a PhD student in the College of Engineering, many courses I selected are more theoretical and methodological, I have less opportunity to digest them in a real-world context and many assessments relied on grading-based assignments and a final exam. I guess that there is a difference of assessment among distinct disciplines and the types of courses, but it is still very important to get connections with real world problems consistently during teaching, assessments and feedback. I will keep exploring the pedagogies to better combine theory and reality in assessments and feedbacks for my future students.
 Lombardi, M.M., 2008. Making the grade: The role of assessment in authentic learning. EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative.
I had an experience of the strict exam-oriented education in my high school in China. The three-year learning, especially the third-year study, was mainly for the college-entrance exam. To improve our exam skills and abilities, the teachers required us to take a mock test every two weeks during our last semester. My whole learning content was subject to the exam scope and paid a lot of effort on improving the exam skills. My experience may not represent all kinds of learning experiences in high schools in China, but I guess many students have experienced different levels of exam-oriented education during their middle school study.
The exam-oriented education mode does provide a fair environment and equal opportunity for students from different families with distinct backgrounds, and it is feasible in evaluating the education results among various areas (e.g. rural and urban areas). Personally, I benefit from this education system in terms of advanced problem solving skills (since our math class is very difficult), perseverance, hardiness, resilience, self-control and ambition.
However, this system has its flaws apparently. The most obvious one is that exam-oriented education lacks critical-thinking training, because there is always a “correct” answer to an exam question. And the mindset of looking for the right answer is ingrained into students’ mind. As a result, students are not comfortable and are less likely to propose innovative solutions and challenge textbooks or their teachers.
I think that any education system has its two sides. The same is true for the competence-oriented education. If it is so difficult to challenge the education system, as an educator, I will try my best to focus on students’ need and stimulate them to learn with passion and grit.
The higher we stand on the pyramid of knowledge, reaching the boundary of human knowledge, the more we need to learn out of classroom lectures and from much broader sources. Especially in this digital era, rethinking how to properly introduce technology into teaching is very important. I watched a video from MIT Professor Mitchel Resnick, director of MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten initiative , on how we must use technology to transform our model of education. The video is entitled with “rethinking education: lifelong learning in the digital age” .
The main opinion by Prof. Resnick that triggered my thinking is that “even many classes have included new technologies, a lot of times the whole approach education hasn’t changed very much… they were holding on to old ways of teaching and learning even though we’re starting to be surrounded by these new technologies. So it is important to rethink our approaches to learning and education to fit with the new possibilities of the digital age.” We should also think about how to avoid too information centric view of education. And instead of using technologies to simply deliver information, we can view technologies as tools of active construction of knowledge. This is also something I hope to refer to to evaluate my own teaching in the future.
I have benefited a lot from network learning since my first year in college. Although most work still require independent efforts, higher-level learning is always challenging and takes long time to digest and understand. Only focusing on textbooks or readings that time can hardly arouse my passion for studying deeply and thinking broadly. And for the knowledge that is more practical and experimental, it is almost impossible to master it without an effective experiential learning that involves experiments, discussions and feedbacks. Luckily at that time, we had study groups and online platforms for collaborating with classmates, solving problem together, sharing our learning experiences, and getting feedbacks. For several times at the end of semesters, I felt the same as Prof. Michael Wesch introduced in his TED talk that “…but in fact that final project was not so final and the real project was themselves.”
Now for my graduate education in this digital era, it is even more important for me to communicate opinions and get feedbacks in a broader context. I appreciate that many courses, like GRAD 5114 Contemporary Pedagogy, have involved blogging via social media as a main tool to force me to think deeper and help me learn in a network with more inclusive study culture. Moreover, for this course itself, learning the experiences and opinions from peers with different education background is a very necessary process to understand the pedagogy from diverse perspectives. It is also beneficial when I become an educator in the future in terms of establishing a public position, communicating my research, and evaluating the effectiveness of my teaching.
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