Being bold, being true – Knowing what you’re best to do

Guest Post: Associate Professor Debra Bateman, Faculty of Arts & Education, School of Education, Deakin University.

Late last year, as a guest of Dean of the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies (GUSS) Professor David Hayward and as part of an LTIF project on Next Generation Learning Spaces, Associate Professor Debra Bateman spoke to teachers and lecturers at RMIT about her own teaching identity and journey as an academic with a Q&A. The project team was keen to capture some of her thoughts and share them with a wider audience. In this post Deb outlines a few of the principles that underpin her teaching. The session was extremely well-received with many survey responses mentioning that Deb’s words energised and affirmed what these lecturers and teachers were doing in their teaching. 

We hope this post can have a similar effect on you at this busy time of the year!

Being bold, being true – Knowing what you’re best to do
(or my thoughts on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education)
 
SuperheroesThe best teachers in higher education are the ones who know what they are doing. Of course, that sounds quite simple, however to know what one is doing, in this context, is complex. You need to be able to juggle multiple pedagogical and curriculum balls in the air at any time, including:

·      Disciplinary knowledge.

·      The broken up bits of that disciplinary knowledge that are accessible to everyone, and subsequently scaffold deeper learning.

·      An approach that not only engages students, but also professionally and intellectually engages oneself, in order to participate in the learning process in a meaningful way.

·      Confidence in one’s academic identity.

·      An ability to articulate, from another different disciplinary knowledge such as education, the reasons you are doing what you are doing and how you are doing it. (Did you know, by the way, that in higher education we should be talking about andragogy rather than pedagogy?)

·      Opportunities to witness, assess and evaluate what is learned, and to make judgments about learning that affect how students are able to enter the world.

In my presentation at RMIT, I suggested that higher education teachers need to know themselves, and situated that idea in the works of Pat Thomson (2002) who talks about the ideas of virtual schoolbags. Whilst she was referring to the ‘stuff’ that students bring into a learning environment, which influence how and what they do, I suggest that teachers carry virtual school bags also. On top of the content they are expected to teach, they bring loads of experiences of the world and sophisticated thinking which ought to capitalise on the connections that are able to be made for students when delivering big ideas or abstract concepts. 

The fact that before I was a teacher and academic, I was a hairdresser might account for some of the very creative endeavours I pursue in teaching and learning. My background as a teacher in some challenging schools offers me a diverse set of strategies for engagement of resistant learners (and sometimes colleagues). Working to our strengths, offers students of all pursuits an enthused and committed experience in their learning.

I’m also pretty interested in Shulman’s notion of pedagogies of uncertainty (2005) and Rowan and Beavis’ notion of ‘playful pedagogies’ (never published but I heard them say it first). The idea of enabling students to take risks in their learning is powerful, and more importantly  exciting.

For different programs of studies, ‘risks’ can look quite different. In one of my classes, when teaching Civics and Citizenship, I ask students to come dressed as superheroes, and through a range of life-world related experiences they undertake a deep critical analysis of many of the taken-for-granted constructs of the caped wonders (though we also critique the capes from an OH&S perspective). The risks are many, including exposing a value or position of a societal issue, feeling like a fool as people stare at you on public transport (if you don’t do a quick change in a telephone booth), and participating in an embodied analysis, which draws upon cultural knowledge. However, the excitement provides the titillation to learn.

I’ve also thought a lot about ‘furtive teaching’. That’s taking risks with new strategies or using strategies in ways other than they were intended, with the fear of being caught. Part of furtive teaching is undertaking the act of teaching knowing that the risk is countered by the amount of preparation, consideration, research or rehearsal that you have done. In my experience, students have loved being part of my risks. And increasingly, other staff are enjoying them too. One staff-related risk was our representation of scholarship materials Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 11.54.00 amthrough a blend of culture jam, flash mob or parody (see https://vimeo.com/38401190).

Be proud of who you are, and where you come from. Connect the who you are with the what you need to do. Teaching and learning are important aspects of higher education, which cannot be guided by a proliferation of best practice guides. Whilst scholarship can inform and enhance what it is that we do, what we do is part of who we are, what we know, and how we know. But, in a climate of increased accountability, be able to articulate all of those things, and more importantly publish them. Give licence to others to explore their teaching and learning perspectives in ways that up until now, have been fairly limited and narrow.

References:

Shulman, L. S. (2005). Pedagogies of uncertainty. Liberal Education, 91(2), 18-26.
Thomson, P. (2002). Schooling the Rustbelt Kids. Making the Difference in Changing Times. Sydney: Allen and Unwin.

Deb tweets @debbateman
Share your thoughts about pedagogies and andragogies  in the comments section!
_________
Find us on:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s