The Why

So, the big question that we are discussing in the Connected Course, that I am participating in, is the Why of teaching and the Why of your course.  This is a bit of a complicated question on many fronts.

First, why do I teach? I am not 100% sure why I teach. It is something that I have always felt a calling to do. Teaching in higher education was not always what I had in mind but the fact that I love research and learning as much as I do, higher education is the best fit. Plus, I love undergraduate students, especially first years. There is an excitement there that is unmatched. I don’t have a more philosophical reason behind why I teach other than I love it. Maybe one day I will realize what it is but right now I know I love it and that I want to do the best job that I can do.

Second, the why of the course. Something to keep in mind about this is the fact that I am a graduate student instructor. I am the instructor of record for a course on child and adolescent development, which at my institution is a course that covers a general education (known here as CLE) requirement. It is also a course that is required of majors in my discipline. So, I am responsible for ~80 students from all four class years and from across campus. In fact, I have a surprising number of engineers in my section. Given these facts, I have limited control over the why of the course. The course description and outcomes are dictated to me.

However, the why of the course means something different to every person. During The End of Higher Education video chat, there was a lot of discussion about the purpose of education and the purpose of certain courses. Finding the purpose and finding the why in many ways are the same thing. I was told going into my current course (my first time teaching this particular course) that many students would be taking it as first-years to get their requirement out of the way. And yes, I have many taking the course to get the requirement finished (though very few first-years). However, many have said that the reason they are taking the course over others offered that would count is to become better parents when the time comes. Even in assignments they have turned in so far the students are making connections to their own lives from the material covered. Time and time again I am seeing these students looking for the purpose and the why of this course outside of the direction I would think they would.

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