WFE? MOOC – Week 3 Assessment

Thoughts about the MOOC itself – I am up to the week 3 assessment even though I have only really been enrolled for around 1 week. I quite like that I can skip ahead and still have my papers graded (even though the course uses a peer grading system. This is not to say that I have a problem with peer grading in this context, rather that I am impressed that because of the “Massive” part of MOOC – there are always other students able to mark your papers (I wonder what the minimum number is for this system to work, 10, 10000?)),

This weeks initial reflective questions:

Do you remember having a good teacher? Or a particularly bad one? Reflect on your memory, what was about it about this teacher that makes them stand out for you?

For me this question is an interesting one. I suspect that many people when they answer this question are thinking about how well they “got along” with a particular teacher (whether they had friendly rapport)  – not whether or not their chosen teacher was actually good at teaching them. I remember having a particularly bad teacher in high school, he was predictably a higher level maths teacher. His approach to teaching was to work through the text book one chapter at a time and require that students sit silently working on problems. As far as i can remember he didagainst the society no testing of prior knowledge of the class, rather worked on the basis that this was year 9, therefore we will work our way through the year 9 appointed text.

In my case this posed a problem, for a variety of reasons I had significant gaps in my mathematical understanding and this meant that it was almost impossible to understand the texts as provided (most maths education is strictly scaffolded and requires a clear understanding of the previous units so that knowledge can be built upon).

The result: poor grades with repeated assertions to my parents that i was not trying, and that i would do better if i tried harder.

My Evaluation: Pretty poor teaching on a variety of counts.

On the other hand I have had a good selection of “Good Teachers”. But for the most part because they have all been sufficiently good and I have not been a high needs student I don’t really remember them very well. However, the impression that they have left is that “good” teachers are:

  • knowledgeable; good communicators; understanding; reliable; trustworthy.

Of those teachers that i do reflect on as being good, like my high school English teacher – i suspect at the time i did not appreciate their teaching skill. Rather I resented (as children and teenagers do) the difficult aspects of the learning process that they were putting me through without appreciating that sometimes valuable learning comes with “pain”.

In reflection she was a good teacher because she was engaged in the process herself, allowed us to see her development as she also learnt (possible a “life long learner”), she encouraged peer engagement and discussion within class and challenged students on both what they believed and the information that they claimed to “know”. Some of her classes were very loud, she did not seem to equate her control over the class with how quiet she was able to keep the class.

How does this image of a teacher relate to other images you have of a “good” teacher?

A wise teacher

Most of the other “images” that I have of good teachers come from my professional practice and popular culture. In popular culture “good” is synonymous with “exceptional” extroverted and “life changing”. Whereas in my professional practice “good” is synonymous with “competent” and often is overlooked or assumed

Finish this sentence: A good teacher must …

  • understand the current knowledge/understanding of their students, the desired goals of the class they are teaching (short and long term goals) and have a clear path to get from one to the other.
Week 3 Journal Entry: Reflect back on the teachers you considered in the first reflection task at the start of this week. Reconsider what it was about them that made you consider them to be so good. Would others that were taught by them have the same conclusions?
Title: Will I know it when I see it? – What makes a “good” teacher?
To be honest, I don’t remember many of the teachers who have taught me over my very long learning career.
I suspect that this is because most of them have been competent and attentive to how they teach and what they do, so only those who are remarkable (usually badly so) stand out.
The teacher who i considered in the first reflection task at the start of this week was my high school English teacher. At the beginning of the week I thought she was a good teacher because she effectively and neatly walked the line between authority figure and facilitator/co-driver. Now, however, I think that she was a good teacher because she had a very clear understanding of who we were, where she wanted us to go and how she was going to get us to the end point (in one piece). She appeared to be personally engaged in her own learning and wasn’t afraid to let us know that she was learning from teaching us. A particularly memorable class was when she had a “lightbulb” moment about the word Chameleon. Until a student raised a question about the word it had never before occurred to her that a person described as a chameleon was described as such because of their similarity to the animal of the same name.  Her willingness to show us that she too was engaged in the learning process encouraged our own learning. Beyond this she encouraged peer engagement and discussion within class and challenged students on both what they believed and the information that they claimed to “know”. Some of her classes were very loud, she did not seem to equate her control over the class with how quiet she was able to keep the class.
I suspect that others taught by her would not come to the same conclusion unless they were actively reflecting on her teaching in terms of effective learning (and doing so in retrospect). I suspect at the time we were being taught I could not appreciate her teaching skill. While I often enjoyed the classes, I equally often resented (as children and teenagers do) the more difficult aspects of learning discipline specific skills.
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