What is teaching to me?

Thinking about teaching or what a teacher does I’ve been reflecting on how the whole notion of “teaching” has become associated with an information delivery mode of thinking that is being used in an almost pejorative sense. Evidence of this has been the rise in terms for people involved in education who would label themselves as anything other than a teacher.

I think that teaching is a flexible term that should have the capacity to evolve and adapt.

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I sketched out the diagram above one day when trying to pin down the various elements of teaching for my students and although it may seem like a fairly 2D structure I find its always a good place to start as long as you accept that this should really be in 3D and impacted by multiple influences, not least of which are my old favourites of context and time.

The whole thing starts with theory because I think that theory informs and influences our choices as practitioners either overtly or covertly. Its good to be able to acknowledge your sources and its a mark of quality if you can point to a theoretical framework that guides your actions. The two main drivers here for me are theories that enlighten me about how individuals learn and how to go about designing teaching episodes and beyond.

In delivering I have included information delivery because its important we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. In my context as a nurse I will have students coming in who do not know any of the information and given whats at stake they need to be provided with a consistent standard of information. That said; the information can be delivered in a variety of ways and the trick is to design your teaching so that you are successfully getting the students to learn what you want them to learn. As Phil Race says, “learning is a natural human process” so if they’re going to learn anyway then your job is to direct that learning.

I have moved the learning environment on to think about the learning ecology. Ecology is more all embracing and folds in ideas of context and time as well as the usual suspects. I like ecology too because it conjures up ideas of interdependence and how each thing cannot be seen in isolation. Indeed each element is interdependent and relies on everything being present.

Assessment comes next in the diagram but I guess if I could redraw it, I would do it differently. This is where 2D lets us down because this needs to be in your mind at the same time as designing the teaching to ensure that the learning is directed. I suppose it would be better if this was a sphere to show how it all interacts.

Evaluation comes next and this I would include in the research bit. I would add these together as evaluation from students and teacher can be a form of self-study that arises from action research and reflection.

In the midst of all of the ideas is leadership and in a professional sense I think that’s what teachers are doing on a number of levels. Quality Assurance is sitting out there too because I think that the quality of what we do must be externally assessed: Its not enough to think that you’re doing a good job; there must be an external benchmark that we can align our practices with. Regulation plays a big part in this picture too because as a Nurse this plays a big part in our lives

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