All posts by Isabeau Iqbal

Revising (or writing) your teaching philosophy statement

2 pencils on yellow, teaching portfolioI’m facilitating a session on the teaching philosophy statement (TPS) next month. The entire focus of the session is to look at samples of strong TPS and “analyze” them in order to better understand how to write a TPS. This session is being designed in response to requests by faculty members who are part of the Teaching Development Program and who must, as part of the program requirements, write or revise their TPS.

Below are some useful (I hope) first steps. The steps were written with the new(er) faculty member in mind and/or for the person who is new to an institution. My thinking behind these steps is “How do I support faculty members in moving past the anxiety they feel as they think about revising or writing their TPS?”.

Steps:

Reacquaint yourself with your TPS.

  1. Find your TPS.
  • Highlight all the phrases or sentences where you describe your beliefs about teaching.
  • Highlight (in another colour) all the phrases or sentences where you give succinct examples of how you enact these beliefs.
  • Reflect on whether the teaching activities you provide as examples align with your stated beliefs. (If they don’t, revise)

Inquire into your department’s expectations and/or guidelines for teaching dossiers for your specific appointment type.

Find out:

  • Are you required to have a teaching philosophy statement and dossier?
  • If so, for what specific purposes (merit, promotion, tenure, other?)?
  • Who reviews your dossier and when does that happen?
  • What constitutes a strong TPS or dossier in your department?

Connect with a few colleagues within your department and ask if they would be willing to share their teaching philosophy (or entire dossier) with you.

Other questions to consider asking your colleague(s):

  • Would you be willing to provide feedback on my TPS?
  • How have you used your TPS and/or dossier in your career progression?

 

Your (the reader’s) feedback and comments welcome! How do you support the faculty members you work with to get started?

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Self-Explaining

(This post was originally written for and published on the BC Campus Online Reading Club site). The book being referenced is Small Teaching by Dr. James Lang.

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I was attracted to facilitating this chapter because, as a learner, I make minimal use of self-explanation and was curious to see how it might “serve” me to do so more often in my educational developer role and as I consult with faculty members.

Spiral

10/365 Spiral by clogsilk

 

What is self-explaining and does it work?

(The nutshell and punchline for those who are pressed for time and/or impatient.)

The basic premise of self-explanation is that learners benefit from explaining out loud to themselves or others what they are doing during the completion of a learning task.  The best self-explanation techniques prompt learners to articulate what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Lang concludes this chapter by pointing out that research has yielded mixed results when it comes to the learning benefits of self-explanation; in some cases, learners with minimal knowledge of a subject benefit, whereas in other cases it is those with more knowledge who benefit.

How self-explaining works

In previous chapters, Lang underscored that mindful practice and mindful learning during practice foster learning and retention.

Self-explanation is a technique for fostering mindful learning during practice. It can help with that vexing problem of far transfer (or lack thereof)–that ability to carry theories or principles from the initial context to a new context.

Self-explanation can also help improve the learner’s comprehension when it requires individuals to make connections between their knowledge and their skills.

Summarizing research done in this field, Lang writes that the practices below foster learning during self-explaining.

Students:

  • tie specific problems to general principles and connect knowing and doing
  • monitor their own comprehension and can admit to being stuck
  • actively seek to fill in the gaps in their understanding when they feel stuck
  • are able to re-state different aspects of the problem in their own words

Self-explanation fosters learning because this approach helps learners:

  1. “Fill gaps and make inferences in learning productive ways” .
  2. “Modify and improve their existing perceptions or knowledge of a subject matter” (p.147)

Does self-explaining that is prompted by instructors foster learning?

One of the questions that especially piqued my curiousity in this chapter is the one that asks “Do self-explanations that are generated by teacher prompts have the same effect as self-explanations that are spontaneously generated by students?” (p.143).

According to the research that Lang reviewed, self-explanations generated by teacher prompts enhance learning and understanding when students receive immediate feedback.

The small teaching strategy that was cited several times in this chapter, as an example of a teacher-generated prompt, was that of asking students to select, from a drop-down menu, what principles are at play. When prompts are inserted into an assignment at key points, students must reflect on how certain principles are being applied in a specific context. This then helps with the issue of transfer because it requires students to make inference rules.

Citing Chi, Bassok, Lewis, Reiman, and Glaser (p. 178, 1989) Lang writes “Inference rules ‘spell out more clearly the specific conditions or situations in which a specific action is to be taken.’”

Ways to use self-explaining in your teaching

“When using self-explaining, create opportunities that require students to select or articulate principles as they are making choices, searching for solutions, or revising their work” (p.156).

  • Ask students some variation of “Why are you doing that?” as you walk around the class while students are working on their own. (I think this would need to be carefully set up so it doesn’t terrify the students).  (similar to “think aloud” below).
  • Model self-explanation by using the “think-aloud” method as you read a passage or work through a problem. Alternatively, ask students to think out loud as they make decisions (p.154-155 or see Teaching Strategies: Think Alouds [geared to K-12, but useful]).
  • Use a drop-down menu at multiple points during an assignment to prompt students to reflect on the underlying principle at play. Doing so will, ideally, guide their next step.
  • Find ways to provide immediate feedback to students when they are engaging in self-explanation.
  • Scaffold this approach so it does not “over-tax” the students’ brains.
  • Use a “backward fading” approach in which students first observe a problem being worked out, next work out 1-2 steps on their own, and then complete the problem entirely on their own (see p.148 or Teaching with Worked Examples – Save learner time and effort while increasing performance!). (p.148)
  • Ask students to select X (e.g., 3 slides, or one particular section of an assignment) and write a short explanation of their choice. (p.152)
  • Incorporate self-explanation into peer instruction (p.152-153).

1.  I have bolded select in the quote above because it was found that selecting, rather than generating, fostered learning. When students had to generate the principles, it added to their cognitive load in a way that was unproductive (see p.149 for more).

A new twist on caring about good learning and teaching

I have worked in the field of educational development since 2003. I entered this profession by accident–but stayed because I care a LOT about students’ learning.

My own experience of being an undergraduate student remains quite negative–even though that experience dates a long way back. I attribute a 9-year gap between the end of my undergraduate degree and the start of my graduate degree largely to the fact that I associated university learning with joyless learning.

Tomorrow, my 18-year old son starts university. Now, there’s a whole new angle to me caring about student learning and I badly want his courses and professors to further fuel his love of learning.

It’s interesting to be in this place of educational-developer-mother-of-a-new-university-student.

 

A teaching-focussed career in higher education (non tenure-track)

When I am interacting with people who are not familiar with post-secondary environments and they learn that I work at a university, they generally assume I am a faculty member and that teaching is my main responsibility.

I am not a faculty member and have never aspired to have a tenure track faculty position, even when I undertook a PhD. Yet, the focus of my work is teaching and learning.

This spring, because of my professional path as an educational developer, I was invited to be a panelist at two different conference sessions. Both were designed for a graduate student audience. In this post, I’ve captured some of what I shared.

Graduate Students in Teaching Mini Conference 2019

Grad student mini conference panel

The purpose of this session was to highlight different types of teaching-focussed careers in academia. Bits and pieces I shared:

  • If you are attracted to a career the involves teaching, seek out opportunities to teach!
  • Think broadly about teaching. Explore and consider what type of teaching brings you enjoyment. Categories may include: adults, children, classroom, formal, group, one-on-one, facilitative, content-expert, training, planning…
  • Inform people that you want to do more teaching. If volunteering or doing guest lectures are options for you, let people know. Unless you do so, organizers may feel shy to invite you when they know they don’t have a budget to compensate you.
  • Share which topics/areas you’re interested in teaching. If you are teaching people who are not topic specialists, make sure you can speak on the topic in a way that is relatable to others.
  • Get over the belief that teaching is reserved for those with a faculty appointment! Teaching is part of so many roles and positions.

Note: The mini-conference was organized by my colleagues Drs. Shaya Golparian and Joseph Topornycky at the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology at the University of British Columbia. Thank you for inviting me to be part of this session! Co-panelists were Drs. Rowshan Rahmanian, Lacey Samuels and David Oliver. Conference link. 

 

Life after your PhD: Jobs beyond the academy

The purpose of this session was to hear the career narratives of four people who had graduated with PhDs in Education and whose primary role was not a tenure-track faculty member. Bits and pieces I shared:

  • Within the academy, there exists a strongly held belief that landing a faculty position is the (most) desirable outcome. Even if, intellectually, one doesn’t buy into that belief, I think it still affects the self-perception of those of us who intentionally choose not to pursue traditional faculty roles.
  • Take full advantage of any institutional career support you have for your career growth.
  • When seeking employment, reach out to your network.
  • LinkedIn has many features that allow you to grow your network, share your expertise, and develop your brand. Learn how to use it in a way that feels good to you (and be willing to stretch and/or try things out).
  • If you are lucky enough to have a supervisor who is willing to mentor you, gladly accept and enjoy this partnership in whatever ways are possible (co-publications, conferences, introductions, committees…)

Photo above: Isabeau with co-panelists Ernesto Pena and Lucia Terra (also Shaya Golparian, not in picture).

This session was organized by Dr. Christine Kampen Robinson (below) who served as LLRC 2nd VP along with Casey Burkholder under the Canadian Association of Curriculum Studies (which is part of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education). Thank you for inviting me to be part of this session!

Christine Kampen Robinson organizer and Isabeau

Does good student-faculty rapport enhance student learning?

Over the past few months, I have collaborated with faculty members from the Faculty of Arts to do two panel presentations on the topic of student-faculty rapport.

As I prepared for those sessions, I looked into the connections between learning and student-faculty rapport.

For those who are impatient to know whether rapport can enhance student learning, I’ll go straight to my findings: unsurprisingly, research to date has not been able to draw a direct link between rapport and learning.

Though strong faculty-student rapport may not ’cause’ enhanced learning, it helps create conditions conducive to learning.

The literature I reviewed consistently reports that faculty-student rapport results in:

  • higher student motivation
  • increased student participation in class
  • perceptions of increased program quality (from the students’ perspective)
  • greater course satisfaction among students
  • enhanced communication and understanding between students and faculty members

(Frisby & Martin, 2010; Granitz, Koernig & Harich, 2009; McInnis Brown & Starrett, 2017; Wilson & Ryan, 2012)

The above is a compelling list of reasons to pay attention to this aspect of teaching and learning!

Below are the slides I developed for the panel sessions; for anyone interested, there is an extensive list of references at the end. You can view the entire slide deck by clicking on the link below the image. Please note that you are welcome to use and modify these slides (with attribution).

References:

Frisby, B. N., & Martin, M. M. (2010). Instructor–student and student–student rapport in the classroom. Communication Education, 59(2), 146-164.

Granitz, N. A., Koernig, S. K., and Harich, K. R. (2009). Now it’s personal: Antecedents and outcomes of rapport between business faculty and their students. Journal of Marketing Education, 31 (1), 52-65.

McInnis Brown, M. & Starrett, T. (2017). Fostering student connectedness: Building relationships in the classroom. Retrieved from: https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/fostering-student-connectedness-building-relationships-classroom/

Wilson, J. & Ryan, R. (2012). Developing student-teacher rapport in the undergraduate classroom. In W. Buskist & V.A. Benassi (Eds.) Effective College and University Teaching: Strategies and Tactics for the New Professoriate, 81-90 Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Photo Credit: https: //flic.kr/p/8MYPZi. Professor MaryCarol Huner and Katie Dennis discuss her 3-D model of “Daily Domestic Arguments” by Leonardo Dudreville