Intentions

This is the third post in a regular feature Over a cuppa: prompts to reflect on learning and teaching. Once a week during Session 1 and Session 2 I will publish a short post (250 to 300 words) which prompts you to reflect on your learning and teaching during the time it takes to make and drink a cuppa. Original artwork by Fidel Fernando.

You’ve put on your teaching cloak and taught your first class for the semester. How did it go? What did students enjoy and what did you enjoy? Is there anything you would do differently? Your students are on track with learning outcomes and assessment tasks, but what are your intentions for teaching?

Setting intentions is a type of reflection for action (recollecting the modes for reflection covered in the first sip). Harvey, Coulson and McMaugh (2016) define reflection as:

A deliberate and conscientious process that employs a person’s cognitive, emotional and somatic capacities to mindfully contemplate on past, present or future (intended or planned) actions in order to learn, better understand and potentially improve future actions.

I feel like an imposter writing about planning since this is not my superpower. (Take a look at Janet Dutton’s post on lesson planning). In fact, every day—weekday or weekend, work day or holiday, ordinary or significant —I hold onto the same goals: Join an interesting conversation, Eat something good, Spend time outdoors, and Enjoy reading. Most of the time this works fine, but 2020 prompted introspection (and triggered a craving for novelty). To my daily goals I have added two intentions which I integrate in my teaching: amplify others and practise self-care.

Your intentions might look very different. Focussing on teaching: are you seeking to improve your online lectures? Experiment with something new? Create informal evaluation opportunities? Practise feedback strategies? Apply for a teaching award? Focus on embedding Indigenous knowledges? Connect with practitioners? Something else?

Here are some questions to guide your thinking:

  • What did you want when you were a student? How are your students similar to or different from you?
  • How are you feeling about teaching? What’s your top priority right now?
  • How will you gather evidence of your practice?

Harvey, M., Coulson, D. and McMaugh, A. (2016). Towards a theory of the Ecology of Reflection: Reflective practice for experiential learning in higher education, Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 13(2). https://ro.uow.edu.au/jutlp/vol13/iss2/2

2 thoughts on “Intentions

  1. I’m envious that you have an opportunity to teach. As hard and exhausting as it can be, the feeling of fulfillment and excitement when you see a student succeeding, and know that you were partly responsible, is hard to beat. I’m not in a situation right now where I have the opportunity to teach, but I wonder if I would be as excited in an assessment centric program or teaching online classes with limited student involvement? I don’t think I would.

    While I don’t have an opportunity to teach, I do interact with teachers at all levels. As a whole they seem impassioned by their profession, but sadly lacking in some skills that I consider basic from my training as a teacher. I’m in the U.S. and too often teachers I meet have had no training in psychology, group dynamics, cognition or educational philosophy. They seem all to willing to seize on the latest technical fad to manage classrooms over developing the empathy and non-verbal communication skills to understand their classroom. Not all of the teachers I meet are like that but enough that I find it concerning.

    I’ll offer one example that comes from painful personal experience, giving a speech in class. For us, that is imposed on students around 6th grade, 11 years old. Each student is supposed to stand in front of class and give a 5 minute speech. For the popular kids and the most extroverted it’s not that hard. For the kids who are introverted it is exquisite torture that can lead to being teased unmercifully. Curriculum requirements and assessment are useful, but not at the expense of a student’s self-image and socialization that can carry on through life. I would hope that teachers trained to understand students instead of just curriculum would be able to empathize with students.

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    • Thank you for your comment, Alan. Sadly, as my career advances, I am teaching less. So I enjoy what I can – programs for early career teachers, co-leading a MOOC, face-to-face and online seminars as a guest lecturer, online gatherings of colleagues that blend teaching and research. I like your list of knowledge you consider important – psychology, group dynamics, cognition or educational philosophy – to build empathy as teachers.

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