Another dot in the blogosphere?

Oversimplified teaching

Posted on: June 28, 2021

You can imagine the number of likes and retweets this tweet got/will get without clicking through to see its stats. But I see that sentiment arising from an uncritical and nostalgic view of teaching. 

The same empty feeling can happen when teaching in person. The teacher might not be reaching her students. The lesson might be at the end of the day in a hot and humid classroom. The class might have an unfortunate mix students who are uninterested.

My point is not that online teaching is perfect. It is that we often romanticise classroom-based teaching even though it has its own set of complex problems. Describing online teaching as faceless or lonely is an oversimplification of what teaching is. It also focuses on the teaching instead of what it more important — the learning.

Teaching should lead to learning. However, teaching does not guarantee learning just like speaking does not ensure that someone else is listening. And even if they have listened, this does not mean they act on it. 

Learning requires change as evidenced by action. A change in understanding, attitude, or belief is not obvious until externalised. Such change is not obvious whether online or off. That lack of sense of change is can contribute to an empty feeling of teaching.

If that is the case, I say we do not reduce teaching to lecturing to empty seats or blanked screens. We might instead embrace nuance and complexity by seeking evidence of learning by asking ourselves:

  • Did the session matter?
  • How do we know or by what measure?
  • How might we ensure that it was impactful?

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