Foundations for Professional Development component of the teaching certificate includes three of the five core competencies. Attending the College Teaching Institute workshop covers this component and, therefore, the three competencies. Here is my reflection on each of these:
Core Competency 2: Creating Effective Learning Environments
Description: The purpose of this competency is to understand the significance of student-centered learning environments that are culturally sustaining and disciplinarily conscious. An educator needs to display a practice-based knowledge of what it means to create an effective learning environment and manifest knowledge of differentiated instruction, diverse skills and practices that are engaging and motivating, and approaches that encourage student agency and voice.
Artifact: On May 12, 2016, I attended a session by Dr. Bennett Goldberg (Assistant Provost for Learning and Teaching; Professor, Physics, Northwestern) on Five Easy Steps to Effective Peer Instruction.
Rationale/Snippets of notes from the session: Educators need to understand the importance of cognitive dissonance. One way to assure this is by allowing a diversity of responses from peers to create alternative threads of discourses. This can help address student misconceptions as well that are often ingrained in personal experience.
Reflection: From Dr. Goldberg’s session, I learned that a question should be seen as one of the most impressive devices of human language. It allows us to further human understanding, perhaps more than anything else. Additionally, the importance of social interaction in inquiry and gaining knowledge is often undermined in classroom practices. Using peer instruction helps highlight the value of society in science and any discipline for that matter. Together, questions and peer instruction can be seen as the cornerstone of any inquiry.
After the session, I still pondered over the transfer Dr. Goldberg’s examples from natural sciences to social sciences. A more postmodern world of social science is harder to predict and does not comply with positivist standards. I, personally, find quantitative methodology dehumanizing when it comes to social sciences for this reason. We need to be very careful when talking about people and borrowing quantitative methods from natural sciences. This also made me think of my own teaching and the role of standardization in student assessment. I think, to create effective learning environments, the most important thing to do is to allow students multiple paths to succeed in class. By giving rigid rubrics and standards of assessments, we hinder students’ chances to succeed.
Core Competency 3: Incorporating Technology in your Teaching
Description: Incorporating technology in classroom competency talks about thinking broadly about technology and looking beyond digital examples of technology in the classroom. Technology is more than a tool. It can be seen as a part of pedagogy that assists teachers in carefully designing classroom experiences for students that are empowering and engaging.
Artifact: On May 12, 2016, I attended Dr. Jeff Grabill’s (Associate Provost for Teaching, Learning and Technology, and Professor, WRAC) session on Incorporating Technology in Teaching.
Rationale/Snippets of notes from the session: A syllabus is a technology, and so is a pencil. Careful use of texts on a syllabus is type designing of classroom experience using technology. Using TPACK and thinking of how to use technology to best support the pedagogy to teach content is a very helpful way of thinking about incorporating technology in class.
Reflection: A fascinating takeaway from Dr. Grabill’s session for me was to think about technology as a pedagogy. I have always thought of technology from a TPACK (technological, pedagogical, content knowledge) perspective, which gives technology a unique standing and makes it more practical for teachers to think about practice-based implementations of technology. I find that there is an interesting tension between the two perspectives. While I completely understand what Dr. Grabill means by thinking of technology as a pedagogy, I think there is also value for teachers in thinking about TPACK. As an educational technology researcher, I have a lot more to think about here than covered in the workshop.
Core Competency 4: Understanding the University Context
Description: Understanding the University Context is one of the most important competencies (personally speaking). It covers the importance of some of the underlying issues that often go unnoticed in academia, such as faculty and student rights, health and well-being in a higher education institution, institutional discrimination, and so on. This competency helps educators become aware of their context and how it dynamically affects teaching and learning.
Artifact: On May 12, 2016, I attended a session on Understanding the University Context with Dr. Melissa McDaniels (Assistant Dean and TAP Director, Graduate School, MSU). We learned about various types of higher education institutions.
Rationale/Snippet from the notes for the session: We need to understand that each higher education institution has a mission statement and considers itself to be serving a purpose. There are institution level goals. For example, there are minority-serving institutions to help cope with systemic discrimination.
Reflection: I learned that the value of framing my teaching and professional statement and balancing it with content needs to be situated in the context where I work. I need to work in a dialog with the institution, continually conversing with their objective and my personal philosophy. This way we negotiate the dilemmas and challenges that come our way as educators. This way I can be more explicit and clear about my personal values and objectives and work towards a common goal.