For the last blog post of the semester, we were asked to discuss why mindful learning and teaching is important. To be honest, this is the first time I am hearing those two terms. Having now learned what each of them means and why they are important practices in academia, I am ready to do my best and apply them when I embark on my teaching journey.
Mindful learning is derived from the concept of mindfulness, which is defined by psychologist Ellen J. Langer as “A flexible state of mind in which we are actively engaged in the present, noticing new things and sensitive to context.” Conversely, mindlessness is a state of mind in which one “acts like as an automatons who has been programmed to act according to the sense our behavior made in the past, rather than the present”.
In mindful teaching, instructors are constantly reinventing themselves by trying not to get stuck in past learning methods. In other words, by being mindful, the teacher is able to see how diverse his class is and to tailor his lectures and contents so as to make all students feel included. By being mindful, teachers are also able to know that they need to update their lectures so as to help students learn skills that make them competitive and prepare them for the job market. Mindful teaching also engages people in what they are learning by using Problem Based or Case Based assignments/projects. As far as students are concerned, they also need to be mindful learners. Mindful learners know that the knowledge they are acquiring is not applicable in all situations. This is because “facts, whether derived from science or not, are not context-free; their meaning and usefulness depend on the situation.” Being a mindful learner also means that we are using all means and technology at our disposal to stay on top of our classes and learning experience in general. As such, with the advent of digital technology, we as students, have the responsibility to develop new learning methods to complement the knowledge we are getting from school. How both teachers and students are willing to seek and understand the best way to apply mindfulness is going to determine how effective mindful learning/teaching will be in a given learning environment.
The question of Authority versus Authoritarian pedagogy was raised during our last lecture, while we were discussing the key differences between critical pedagogy and the Banking model described by Paulo Freire in his book: “Pedagogy of freedom”. Discussing this specific topic brought back many memories from my Primary and High School years. I will describe some of these experiences in this blog.
According to Freire, authoritarian pedagogy is the form of teaching whereby teachers are the supreme authority in the class. Teachers “know everything and students know nothing”. “When they talk, students have to listen meekly”. Also, the teacher is the only one who disciplines and the students are disciplined. On the other hand, the authority way of teaching is more liberal. The authority (here the teacher) “is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach”.
It is undoubtedly clear that the authority type of teaching will foster an environment conducive to learning. Throughout my primary and high school years, I experienced the authoritarian way of teaching. We were supposed to be perfect in class. A slight mistake or infringement of the teacher’s rigid class rules could be worth a battery. Some teachers even viewed the simple act of asking questions as a challenge to their knowledge and can use that opportunity to punish the whole class. Overall, my college experience was a bit different from my high school and primary school ones. However, my undergraduate experience was just as awful. Professors were labeled “Semi-God”, to refer to the fact that your future is in their hands. In other words, they could decide to fail you in their specific class if you don’t respect their rules, regardless of how well you perform in their exams.
For the most part, my grad school experience, on the other hand, is so refreshing. I experienced a different way of teaching, whereby the lecture is totally open for students to ask questions and to have a dialog with their teachers. The latter facilitated this dialog by being completely humble and putting themselves at the same level of knowledge as students. Looking back, I don’t regret having experienced the authoritarian way of teaching. On the contrary, I am actually grateful to have experienced both the authoritarian and the authority types of teaching. This has helped me discover the best and most effective teaching methods. And for someone aspiring to go into teaching, I look at these experiences as great lessons that I can build on to be the best possible teacher.
With the advancement of learning technologies, online learning has become a trend in recent years. While online/distance learning has multiples advantages, its effectiveness really depends on the type of online teaching methods employed. I would like to focus on the two main types of distance methods discussed in class this week: synchronous and asynchronous learning.
Synchronous teaching involves real-time online teaching, where both the teacher and the student are online at the same time. This is done using video call programs such as Skype, Zoom, Google Hangout, etc. On the other hand, asynchronous teaching does not oblige students to be online at the same as teachers. The instructor just needs to communicate with students via email or other content management systems, about all course-related matters. I believe Synchronous Teaching could be the most effective way to do distance learning, in that it allows instructors to measure students “affects”. In other words, although, there might still be a screen separating the teacher and his/her students, synchronous teaching will allow him/her to still have that personal connection with students since the teaching is occurring in real-time. However, the flip side is that this type of teaching requires a bit of experience from the teacher and might not be suitable for new teachers. Asynchronous teaching could be the most effective teaching method for a first-time teacher since he/she doesn’t have to be online at the same with students and could easily manage as in-class questions, which all first-time teachers are petrified about.
As such, for my first teaching experience as a graduate student, I would like that to be asynchronous. At the same time, if I only have the opportunity to teach a synchronous class, be it online or in-person I would take it without hesitation. Although it will be challenging for a first teaching experience, I am pretty sure I can do a pretty good job, as I am having the best preparation with the Future Professoriate Graduate Certificate.