Teaching Foundations of Education with

Teaching Foundations of Education with [the FP] this semester gives me the opportunity to review and critique my own philosophy and style of teaching. I’ve been quite influenced by group relations theory and its emphasis upon authority relations: this has led me to pay particular attention to structure and boundaries, and to think about the roles and task(s) inherent in an academic setting. In the college classroom, I consider the students to be equal participants in the process of learning. The structure of my courses reflects this, I think, in my clarity around boundaries (such as a no late work policy), which has the effect of situating a significant amount of responsibility upon the student to embrace the role of learner.
My style is to respect the choices that students make, with the real world caveat that choices have consequences. The work gets done or it doesn’t, students come to class or log in, or they don’t. All I can do is remind them of the criteria and expectations. When students do embrace the role of learner, everyone benefits from the discussions that ensue, including &emdash; most definitely! &emdash; me. In some ways I guess this is a selfish mode. If I put my energy into the nitty-gritty details of clarifying and enacting expectations right up front, then we can move into the subject material more deeply, without having to worry too much about logistical distractions.
Which isn’t to say everything runs smoothly! The writing class I’m teaching at UMass is a required course that most students approach reluctantly, and I have my own ambivalences &emdash; English is not a subject I have ever studied. I am more confident this semester though, the second time around and I think I have found a way to ground the curriculum with assignments that I can get excited about. If I’m jazzed up, it’s much more likely that I can bring some, perhaps even most of the students around. Our first class was rather grim, very few smiles, although voluntary participation was pretty good. I’m not much of a punster, but I am a group dynamics person, and what I enjoy most is identifying dynamics without judging them. Naming things opens them up for discussion and can often be done humorously. In hindsight, I realize that I didn’t feel free to make these observations the first time I taught this course.
Online the boundaries are even sharper, and the lack of face-to-face accountability really puts the onus on the student to embrace their role. It requires a completely different kind of trust &emdash; that ‘someone’ is really ‘out there’ reading, thinking, and writing conscientiously about the topic at hand.

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