A History of Teaching in 10 Lectures

This Much I Know
Coventry University 19th September 2018

1. That’s what you are paid for!!!
After many years of teaching in the USA and the U.K. I got really good at teaching. I designed my courses, having got approval for the syllabus and curriculum, wrote the handbook, printed off the handouts, prepared the overheads and tried to replace the lecture with workshops, games and discussions. A few weeks into the first time I implemented this approach one of my students asked when I was going to lecture them. I smugly pointed out the genius of my alt.ed approach to which he replied
“You have to lecture us, that’s what you are paid for!”
(Or, put another way, discussion is not seen as “work” and they wanted to see me work “hard” for my money)
Lesson 1 is…?

2. Oxford University, the Lectern…
Of course when I got really good at lecturing, actually really good at e-learning, I was then asked to research it. We first developed the “Community Development Model of Learning” and I was asked to talk about it at Oxford University’s “Shock of the Old” in the new Said Business School in a state of the art lecture theatre. As we were all e-learning gurus they apologised for putting us in a “lecture” “theatre” but explained that they had invented the lecture when they were founded in 1093. They only had 30 books, all hand written, all locked away in the Library. They were unlocked, carried painfully from the library, rested on a “lectern” and then were read out to the assembly. So the original lecture came about because handwritten books were too expensive and each “pupil” was just making a personal copy for themselves to read and understand later; not in the “lecture.” So copying was the original form of education…
Lesson 2 is…?

3. Behind the desk or in front of the desk… (“Teaching” or content-delivery?)
Once I had earned some confidence in the classroom I realised I needed to stand in front of the desk rather than behind it. Behind the desk, and the lectern, I was just the distant deliverer of content, in the 1,000 year old Oxford University style, a fake expert because I owned THE text book (just a book of text!). In front of the desk I was open to questioning, an approachable facilitator of learning. Q&A stimulates learning, if your students pop down to the orchard and chat (e-chat is not cheat).
Lesson 3 is…?

4. Misunderstanding the Academy (let students create the taxonomy)
Despite the Renaissance #fakenews about Platos Academy it had a completely non-academic model of learning. It was in 3 parts. Building, Orchard and Gymnasium (German style). Here was no syllabus or pedagogy. You talked to Socrates in the building, who moaned that the emergence of books would ruin memory, chatted to your mates in the garden (read Platos Republic for lots of bits from this part) then exercised to refresh your body and brain. Learning was whatever was left over after that three-part process. Pedagogically curated Education emerged in the exceptionally mechanical 19th century when, first, the Museum Act provided a justification for taxonomies and, second, the Education Act encouraged local authorities to open schools; oh dear
Lesson 4 Is…?

5. Community of Scholars (or community of teachers)
My very first class, scheduled for 50 minutes, lasted just 10 minutes. I rushed through the material delivering all the content I had prepared, asked if there were any questions and fled the room. Straight into the staff room where I poured out my problems to my colleagues. They patiently explained that you had enough material to fill the time IF you included students and went through the material on a step by step basis checking If they had understood what you had said and what problems they had in understanding what you were saying. And add some Q&A which eventually…
Lesson 5 is…?

6. Cognitive Dissonance (Confusion not clarity)
There is much confusion about clarity of content, and many millions of wasted hours filming lectures. Along the lines of, if the smartest person on the planet tells you about XXX just think how much you can learn!!! (As we have seen) lecturing isn’t learning, it’s content delivery from someone else’s book. In fact, once you have the experience you can stimulate more learning by creating mild confusion in your learners rather than offering crystal-clear clarity. As long as you clarify “meaning” in the following week…
Let the student own the “Eureka” moment of understanding. Do not tell them what the Eureka moment is, rather give them just enough information to work it out for themselves.
Lesson 6 is…?

7. Flawed handouts are better than perfect handouts
The Eureka moment, when students really learn, is best achieved with poor, or acceptable resources; handouts and lectures. They need a way into your materials, something that isn’t intimidating in its perfection, something that can be chewed over in discussion with others. I accidentally discovered this (like Bernie Dodge with WebQuests) when I realised that a handout on Information Systems from a definitive textbook had a flaw; it missed a critical information flow. I prompted students to find it. The result was they assumed all handouts had flaws and looked for them…
Lesson 7…?

8. It’s the Q&A that matters…Guerrilla Questioning…
AND – students accept any lecturing style, as long as you know what you are talking about; they will decode your lecturing style and make sense of it for themselves.
Some years ago, on a Masters Degree on Information Systems and Technology we had a lecturer who was the number one expert on Intellectual Property and had written the number one textbook on IP. But! She couldn’t lecture. So we students got together before and after each lecture and worked out what we needed to learn. And started asking questions (which she was brilliant at answering) when she lost her way. In my experience sharp questions from students, guerilla questioning, provokes the best learning.
Lesson 8 is…?

9. Becoming Craft Professionals (10,000 hours rule)
I’ve spent many years developing e-learning, and working with new pedagogies, like Heutagogy. The big learning for e-learning developers is that your pedagogies have to be “perfect” as the tech will always fail you. As someone said in a workshop I facilitated at e-learn 2006 “all learning is a mix of theorising and socialising.” In the main we are far too scared to “socialise” in the lecture theatre, but we are very happy to theorise. We need to become craft professionals in teaching to get really good at relaxing and allowing student “socialising” to drive the learning; 10,000 hours. ITT! CPD!! CPD2!!! Academic Working Lives are 10,000 hours of prep, perhaps 3-5 years, to allow our own distinctive “craft professionalism” to emerge…
Lesson 9 is…?

10. The digital practitioner (be curious, confident and personal)
I met Simon Beard of Coventry University (who asked me to do this) on the national Continue reading “A History of Teaching in 10 Lectures”


What is meant by Teaching Excellence?

This blog has been convened by Fred Garnett and Nigel Ecclesfield in order to discuss what is meant by Teaching Excellence as requested by the current UK government consultation in 2018. As founder members of the Learner-Generated Contexts Research Group, we think we should be looking at what is meant by Learning Excellence, or rather, what dimensions of education enable good Learning to take place. Unfortunately both the government, with its education policy hat on, and academics, with their traditional elitist view that Universities are the only aspect of education that matter, are using the dreaded Research Excellence Framework as the framing metaphor in trying to discuss what Teaching Excellence looks like. 

We don’t think that educational policy makers are the least bit interested in what teaching excellence might look like, we think they want to both increasingly control the education sector and further limit the degrees of freedom by which teachers might practice their profession. For a start you certainly wouldn’t model teaching excellence on university practice where academics are recruited for their academic ability and concerns about not their teaching practice come a poor and distant second.

As authors of work on what we call the “Craft Professionalism” of teaching we think that there is much to discuss on what constitutes good practice in teaching. Furthermore we’ve been involved with the Digital Practitioner research, along with Geoff Rebbeck, which has identified fresh ways of looking at good teaching practice in the digital age. So in terms of both our historic practice, knowledge and expertise, along with emerging good digital practice, as seen with the new enabling tools of “personal” technologies, we feel we have a lot to contribute to any debate on “teaching excellence”.

Fred, having taught in both the USA and the U.K., developed an approach to teaching that he calls “brokering” which is both teaching and enabling the learner to understand the educational framework within which they are attempting to learn. Nigel, as an Inspector for ALI & OFSTED, has great experience in both teaching and in reviewing the teaching practice of others. 

The issues we hope to address are;

  1. What is the purpose of education
  2. What is the role of a teacher within an educational Instituion
  3. Who defines the role and “craft professionalism” of a teacher within an educational institution?
  4. What are the rights of the learner within the educational system
  5. How is the emerging digital practice changing the traditinal the role of the teacher 
  6. To what extent is the understanding of teacher limited to pedagogy and to what extent does it also enable Andragogy and heutagogy within the learning process?

This is  draft post to initiate discussion…