Questioning

This is the 11th post in Over a cuppa, a series which offers prompts to reflect on learning and teaching during the time it takes to make and drink a cuppa. I have set myself the challenge of keeping these posts to 300 or so words. Cross-posted from Teche, original artwork by Fidel Fernando.

If I had to sum up reflection in one word I would say: questioning. Reflection treats teaching as an experimental learning process.

After (too much) thinking for one word, I discovered Reflective Teaching in Higher Education (2020) has questions as its table of contents. It opens: Who are we as teachers and who are our students? How can we develop the quality of our teaching? Then questions on spaces, curriculum, communication, inclusion… It ends: How do we develop a career-long fascination with teaching? How does reflective teaching contribute to society? I’ll let you know when my copy arrives! In the meantime, the website includes useful individual and group activities.

I am currently reading Sarah Krasnostein’s (2021) The Believer: Encounters with Love, Death & Faith, a work of narrative non-fiction that resists description. Krasnostein writes:

It is thinking—in the specific sense of an honest interior conversation that tries to distinguish between right and wrong, both factually and morally—that anchors the human world. Arendt speaks of the willingness to hold these inward interrogations as the disposition to live with oneself (p 45).

Bell hooks’ (1994) in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the practice of freedom offers the inward interrogations of reflection as a process of imagination:

Excitement in higher education was viewed as potentially disruptive of the atmosphere of seriousness assumed to be essential to the learning process … Critical reflection on my experience as a student in unexciting classrooms enabled me not only to imagine that the classroom could be exciting but that this excitement could co-exist with and even stimulate serious intellectual and/or academic engagement (p 7).

Initially I thought this post would ask ‘why reflect?’ but the process of writing it, and the books I am reading, made this seem like asking ‘why think?’ or ‘why imagine?’ How could we do otherwise?

What makes your teaching shine?

This is the 10th post in Over a cuppa, a series which offers prompts to reflect on learning and teaching during the time it takes to make and drink a cuppa. I have set myself the challenge of keeping these posts to 300 or so words. Cross-posted from Teche, original artwork by Fidel Fernando.

I have an earworm, a line of a song stuck in my head. Thanks to my son’s listening habits, it’s the first line of Tones and I’s Dance Monkey: ‘They say, oh my god, I see the way you shine’.

It’s not a shiny time right now, but having the line on continuous loop prompted this reflection. At this stage of semester, you and your students are probably feeling tired. This interesting post on teaching tiredness was written pre-pandemic:

With multiple courses to teach, we do get tired, but I think we regularly confuse physical fatigue with the more serious emotional tiredness that comes from a heavy workload of always being there, always giving, and always juggling multiple balls in the air…

This post on Zoom fatigue offers a contemporary update. The author describes her teaching:

Over my decades of teaching, I’ve learned to read a room pretty well: the harmonized posture, the breaths, the laughter, the eye gaze. My classes are successful when everyone is so excited that they want to speak over each other out of sheer exuberance. When people sit up straight and say, “Wait! Do you mean …?” because they have a brand-new way to understand the world…

It can be difficult to push though the tiredness. The advice offered can be helpful but is likely familiar: change, refresh, pause, collaborate, celebrate. It is important to note that this reflection is not a response to the emotional, physical and mental exhaustion of prolonged stress. But if you feel a bit flat at this stage of the semester, consider what makes you shine in your teaching. What do you enjoy?

I am inspired by Maggie MacLure’s thoughts on wonder in research:

I have called this intensity that seems to emanate from data, a ‘glow’. But here, I want to think of it again as wonder … Wonder is not necessarily a safe, comforting, or uncomplicatedly positive affect. It shades into curiosity, horror, fascination, disgust, and monstrosity.

What animates, surprises, delights, refreshes you and your students?

Here’s one suggestion for waking up teachers are students alike: take your teaching into the wild (weather permitting) or bring the outdoors into the classroom.

Thank you to Professor Ronika Power for talking through the ideas in this post and sharing her fabulous teaching practice.

MacLure M. (2013). The Wonder of Data. Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies 13(4): 228-232. doi:10.1177/1532708613487863

Use your senses

This is the 9th post in Over a cuppa, a series which offers prompts to reflect on learning and teaching during the time it takes to make and drink a cuppa. I have set myself the challenge of keeping these posts to 300 or so words. Cross-posted from Teche, original artwork by Fidel Fernando.

Today’s reflection prompt is: consider the five senses in your teaching.

This morning, I joined colleagues for breakfast and a campus walk guided by the work of an interdisciplinary research team Go Slow for a Mo. As a living lab for evaluating the benefits of spending time in nature, our campus offers an invaluable resource for staff and students. Over the coming months, we will be sharing ways to incorporate this Stress Regulator Trail in your teaching and research practices. I still have grass on my feet and birdsong in my ears.

Last year, I attended two virtual seminars on Learning Through COVID that focussed on embodiment and experiential learning: Why we need our body to learn and work and Rethinking embodied learning. Via Zoom, the presenters prompted participants to use their whole bodies during the sessions (take a look at the pre-readings and videos via the links above).

Over the last couple of years, I have been working on a project that takes a sensory and place-based look at the higher education conference experience. We are drawing on the methods of cultural history research to analyse the experience of conference participation and the themes of place, sociality, embodiment and sensory experience. This led me to pick up Chatterjee and Hannan’s (2015) edited collection Engaging the Senses: Object-Based Learning in Higher Education which discusses the pedagogies of artefacts, artworks, materials and matter.

On Friday, I will be teaching a seminar on the evolution of higher education, and want to engage students across the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains (based on Bloom’s taxonomy for learning and revised by Anderson and Krathwohl). How are you being attentive to the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and touch of learning experiences?

Anderson, L., & Krathwohl, D. A. (2001). Taxonomy for learning, teaching and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman.

Bloom, B. S.; Engelhart, M. D.; Furst, E. J.; Hill, W. H.; Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay Company.

Chatterjee, H. J. and Hannan, L. (2015) (eds.) Engaging the Senses: Object-Based Learning in Higher Education. London and New York: Routledge.