Thinking about a course on College and University Teaching

Next semester, I’m teaching a doctoral level course titled College and University Teaching. My main “problem” for the course is how to help future faculty develop knowledge and skills that they will need in their teaching roles. I have a physical classroom (which is fairly flexible with moveable tables and chairs and decent a-v should I need it), but I also plan to teach just under half of it online (long story on the “just under half of it” bit; institutional requirements and such). The course objectives include (but are not limited to) the following:

• Identify different perspectives on learning
• Synthesize primary literature and key resources on postsecondary teaching
• Evaluate a wide variety of traditional and developing models and styles of college teaching
• Evaluate current and emerging practices of assessing teaching and learning in higher education
• Locate and use resources to improve teaching knowledge and practices.

For my video, I offer Mike Wesch’s (of The Machine is Us/ing Us fame) take on knowledgeable vs knowledge-able students:

I agree with him that it’s important to help students learn to ask important questions and to use resources to find the answers to them.

If you happened to read my last post, you’ll know that this week I’ve started to think that it is important to think about what this course is before deciding how to go about it. If I think of the course, for example, as a seminar (definition: a group of advanced students studying under a professor with each doing original research and all exchanging results through reports and discussions), that’s a different thing than if I think of it as an event (definition: an important occurrence; a happening).

My conception of what the course is will necessarily influence how I see my role in it (if I see it as a seminar, for example, I see myself as a research expert guiding new researchers through the process of doing original research, whereas, if it see it as an event, I see myself as an event coordinator, bringing the students in and designing activities for them to participate in). My conception of what the course is also will influence how I accomplish the different objectives (if I see it as a seminar, I might have them do original research on learning theories, while if I conceive of it as an event, I might have them talk about their own theories with others and situate them within the broader context of learning theory). And so forth.

I’m just beginning to consider this idea of thinking through what the course is, and I’m still thinking about what that means for the college teaching course and how this will shape what we will do in it!

10 thoughts on “Thinking about a course on College and University Teaching

  1. Thank you for sharing! This course of Pedagogy First is a seminar to me. It feels like it. We produce our blog posts each week, we rumble around, we read and discuss the content. And in the end, some how, perhaps some knowledge seeps up. Hope so 😉

    • You know, I’m not sure that it feels like a seminar to me (no original research). But I see your point about the independent nature of the work. And I’m not entirely sure what I think it is…maybe a distributed conversation, but then there are the tasks, so I’m not sure (bricolage?). Would be interesting to know what the folks who developed and facilitate Pedagogy First think the course is, what they intend for it to be.

  2. I am agree with Hocke, it is like a seminar for me, like a course inside the course, and every post I read is a good information for me. I am learning from the course through all of you. Maybe this is one of the aim of this kind of courses. To learn also from the peers.
    See you online.

    • Hmmm. Interesting. Maybe I’m too focused on the “original research” part of a seminar (or maybe my def is too strict!). Or maybe I just like the idea of a course as conversation or discourse. Will have to give it more thought….

  3. Hi Claire,
    One way to approach educational practice is to allow yourself to drop some of what you know and approach learing as an inexpert learner. It’s very easy to get swamped by theories of how learning occures and lose track of the personal. I’d suggest this blog by Jenny Mackness as an interesting look at teaching first and structure of learning second:

    How to define this course is also covered by Jenny through some links out from this page:

    • Hey Scott,
      Thanks for your comments! I think what you are saying, if I’m picking up what you are putting down, supports in part what I was trying to say in my post (one of them anyway). That is, too much focus initial focus on the details (outcomes, objectives, etc) can detract our attention from the bigger picture, from some of the art that is involved in course design, so course design as artistry rather than educational science. I think we need to think about who we are, who are studens are, and what the couse is and is to be for all of us. Just mulling all of this over… So I think I agree with you!

  4. My goal for this course is to develop an understanding of how to transform a face-to-face class into an online course; I’m a technologist with the job
    of deploying in-class instructional technology, but as a technologist/multimedia/IT/systems integrator professional I saw a need to be holistic even when that is not being asked of me; I think we are all here in this POT because this is an emerging field and I see the eyes of some faculty looking like a deer caught in headlight when we just deploy a video projector and computer in a classroom.
    Your post has helped my understanding of how to consider the role of an instructor, or even the role of a student and maybe have a discussion with students about their role in a class. Knowledgeable vs. knowledge-able; give a person a fish vs. teach a person to fish; faculty need to be information literate and beyond ; command tool to help them manage info, access to info, retrieve info on demand and being able to deliver all this information for responding to the need of their students.
    I can all most see a class shaping into a on the job learning situation where the teacher is the boss, and the student are the workers, where boss and worker have a shared responsibility as a team.

    • Hi Felton,

      Thanks for your thoughts! I like your notion of “transforming” a course.

      You know, I like to think of it as faculty are along a continuum of technology adoption; at one end some folks just using electricity to light the room (maybe to turn on the computer to use the ppt) and at the other end other folks are out there doing cool diy online stuff. Most of us I think are in the middle somewhere. One thing I like about this course we are doing is that we get to learn from each other!

      I had not thought of the job learning situation. Interesting idea!


  5. I agree that a determination of what the course is must be addressed to determine how to conduct your role as a teacher within the course.

    For instance, a course may require that the material be taught in a discussion based setting to ensure that students are accurately understanding the course. In this example, the instructor would be more of a facilitator rather than act in a role which dispenses information.

    • It’s an interesting point, Drew. I actually think sometimes the content drives the instructional method. So there may be a better way to teach one topic to a particular group of students than another way.

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