Trickster Education?

In our GRAD 5104 class I have repeatedly heard statements that some faculty are not good at teaching. When I hear these comments, I wonder whether I, too, have encountered professors who would be better off not holding a teaching role. Though I can certainly think of a couple of professors who were not my favorites, I think that my complaints are likely related to a difference in preferred teaching style.

Hensley shares in his 2018 article about a proposed style of teaching that he calls “trickster-style teaching.” He describes this style as a rule-breaker who uses tricks and jokes to bring insight and poses the potential benefits of approaching education in this manner in contrast to more conventional approaches that focus more on a somewhat cold transmission of facts.

When I think about the professors whose style I disliked, I wonder whether they had a particular style with which they deliberately approached their teaching, or whether the idea of teaching “style” had ever been a consideration in their minds at all. Though I assume that an explanation of one’s teaching philosophy would be a required component in obtaining a faculty position, it seems quite possible that a clear understanding of one’s own style and personality in the classroom may not be explored as deeply.

What do you think of the idea of being a trickster professor? Are there other nontraditional teaching styles you have used or plan to use in the future?


Hensley, N. (2018). Transforming higher education through trickster-style teaching. Journal of Cleaner Production194, 607-612.

2 Replies to “Trickster Education?”

  1. I think you raise an interesting point here, that professors/teachers need to take the time to better understand their own teaching style and how best to incorporate their personality into it. I don’t personally prefer one teaching style over another. I have had old school professors that apply the conventional ‘I lecture, you learn, class ends’, professors that apply the more ‘tricky approach’ where they liven up the classroom dynamic and work toward getting more involvement, and I have had poor professors that seemed to never prepare and struggled to get through a day’s lecture in an understandable way. For me it’s less about the particular style, and more about how they utilize that style in an effective manner. To achieve effectiveness I think you need to understand how you teach best (not try and make yourself teach in a way you are uncomfortable with) and actually work at improving your craft. Teaching is not easy, and I think people generally don’t put the same level of effort into honing their teaching skills as they do with other aspect of academia — or in some cases they did years ago and failed to keep the skills sharp over time.

  2. I think that Matt made an excellent point that effective teachers understand their teaching style and work at improving their skills. In addition to that, however, I think a lot of the great teacher’s I’ve had have all demonstrated that they have an interest in their students’ lives and educations. Maybe that’s just a byproduct of them truly caring about teaching or maybe caring about their students is what makes them good teachers. Either way, I think the important part is that they actually care. I think a lot of the bad teachers I’ve had just don’t care about teaching because they’d rather spend their time on research.

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