‘A Teacher Affects Eternity; s/he can never know where his/her influence stops’
Henry Brooks Adams.
In the following paragraphs, I will attempt to reflect on my teaching assumptions and beliefs by drawing on personal experiences of being taught at both secondary and third-level by educators who, I felt, had a significant influence on me as a learner. I will support the reflection with theory which will be cited and referenced using the Harvard referencing formats detailed in the 3rd edition of ‘1st Cite @ NCI’. I attended secondary school in the 90’s when unfortunately for us, it was still commonplace for a duster or ‘glantóir’ to fly across the room, pelted by a frustrated teacher at a teenager, usually a boy. My 3rd level experience couldn’t have been more different. I returned to higher education as a mature student in 2009. As a ‘mature’ I found myself frequently feeling frustrated by the lack of interest I perceived my younger peers as having in their studies. However, this perception was just that, a perception! Many of the year successfully graduated with flying colours and it opened my eyes to how narrow-minded I had been.
When I think back over my time in secondary school there was one teacher who really was a positive influence, Ms. D. She was one of our English teachers. Ms. D was very good humoured and kind. I don’t ever really remember her sitting at her desk; however, I do have a very vivid memory of the day she was sitting on an empty desk with her feet on the vacant seat of the chair in front of her. That was the day I received my first ever compliment about a piece of work I had written. It was a short composition about the White Rhino which I had learned along the way was an endangered species. She announced to the class she was going to read out a short essay and that it was the way all essays should be written. I can still see her wide green eyes as she looked directly at me and said, ‘You wrote this?’ The statement itself seem to be a strange combination of disbelief and a question all rolled into one.
This experience and the positive feedback which followed has remained with me to this day. Reflecting on it now, I can understand why. It was a very supportive experience filled with positive reinforcement. I felt very motivated about my writing after that and for the rest of my time leading up to my Junior Cert. Coming back to the present day where I have begun my studies in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education with UCC, I can now see that a construct associated with the principles of teaching and learning was evident in the experience I had. The construct as I now understand it to be was motivation, reward and reinforcement (Newcomb et al., cited in Foster and Whittington, 2017, p. 101). Ms. D. took an interest in me and my work. I became intrinsically motivated (Prosser and Trigwell & Biggs and Tang cited in O’Connor, 2010, p.101) as a result of the positive reinforcement offered to me at a time and in a context when teachers didn’t really do that.
Stepping back once more in time to my 3rd level experience, I met another educator who also was a very positive influence. M.T. was one of my social policy lecturers. He was very approachable and always seemed interested in contributions made by us during class discussions. He always spoke about problem- based learning and how it was the approach he used with his assignments. I never actually understood what he meant by that and to this day I find myself still getting to grips with it because rote learning is so hard to shake off! When I returned to college in 2009 my confidence in my ability as a student in 3rd level was very low. I approached him one day for advice on my choice of final year dissertation topic. Even though I had been in college several years at that stage I remember feeling very nervous about speaking to him and wasting his time. How he responded amazed me and I still think about the interaction to this day. To begin with, he was interested in my topic, not only interested he was excited about it too. He described how the research space I was in was not unlike a snowfield, with the only steps visible being my own. After that encounter he would always check in to see how I was getting on. His support and encouragement really bowled me over. After 4th year, with his help and continued support I progressed on to my MA by Research studies, something that once upon a time had seemed very much beyond my reach.
Thinking about the experience now, I can see how he not only supported me but also gifted me with a sense of empowerment, a feeling of ‘I could do this’. This sense of empowerment remained with me and became a value that underpinned my own professional practice as a researcher and as an educator. Consequently, this sense of empowerment contributed to my sense of autonomy vis-à-vis having a sense of my own power to direct my learning (Glenn, Roche, McDonagh and Sullivan, 2017, p. 31). In our classroom discussions I can now see how he was helping us to develop reciprocity and cooperative practice, his problem-based learning I now understand was an active learning technique and his openness was his way of encouraging contact between students and faculty. Essentially, he embodied principles associated with good practice in undergraduate education (Chickering and Gamson, 1987, p.2) in a very authentic and natural way.
Based on these experiences I am beginning to see how they have informed my own teaching principles/beliefs. I now understand my belief in the power of empowerment to be underpinned to a certain extent by Principle 5 Independence, Control and Engagement as articulated by Ramsden cited in O’Connor (2010, p. 103). The Principle of Encouraging Contact between Students and Faculty (Chickering and Gamson, 1987, p.3) resonated with me because I experienced its positive impacts first-hand during my own 3rd level studies. It is something I reflect on often in my interactions with my own students as they move along on their learning journeys. Lastly, my belief in the importance of motivation, reward and reinforcement (Newcomb et al., cited in Foster and Whittington, 2017, p. 100) developed as a result of my experiences at secondary level. These experiences reflected Principle 1 Interest and Explanation and Principle 3 Appropriate Assessment and Feedback (Ramsden cited in O’Connor, 2010, p.103). I am beginning to see also that the scholarship of teaching and learning is a vast area and what I have attempted to reflect on in this short reflective piece is just the tip of the teaching and learning iceberg.
These influences have prompted within me a desire to become more self-aware and understanding of the ways my presence and behaviour impacts on the responses [and related experiences] of my own students today (Price, cited in Moore, Walsh and Rísquez, 2007, p.2). I am now interested to know more about the implications of how I practice my teaching, for both my students and I, as a result of coming to know the principles/ beliefs which underpin my practice. Although I did recognise that enrolling on this new educational journey was an important step for me to take professionally, it was not a comfortable space to move into. For me, it meant being open to doing things differently and accepting that, at times, I didn’t really know what I was doing in the 3rd level classroom or in the virtual learning environment.
Since starting my studies, I have become aware that the vast majority of the time, I have been teaching in a way which I felt worked for me as a student and as a student I was very much an entity learner. Recognising myself as an entity learner has highlighted to me that the needs of the incremental learners (Hetland, cited in McCarthy, 2008, p. 103), which seem to cross my path more often than not, are possibly not being as effectively addressed as they could otherwise be. This new awareness in terms of my own self-awareness and understanding has directly challenged assumptions I had made in respect of my own practice and my perception of how I need to be in order to be perceived as a teacher. My teaching practice is primarily within the virtual classroom these days. The digitalisation of learning (Mc Taggart, Doherty and O’Murchu, 2018, p. 3413) has definitely forced me to pause and consider my principles and beliefs which I have always understood to be intrinsically linked to my sense of professionalism and my professional identity. I guess in many respects, I am beginning to find my place as a result of read[ing] what others are doing, evaluating [my own successes and failures], and refining [my teaching] through careful consideration of the evidence [now before me] (Bernstein, 2010, p.1).
TL6003: Assignment 1 Rubric/submission checklist
Identify and contextualise 2 professional
Teachers (1st, 2nd or 3rd level) who have influenced you. Anonymous reference only.
|I have identified & contextualised 2 teachers.
|I have identified & contextualised 2 teachers.
|I have identified 1 Teacher but must profile the second & contextualise the experience.
|I have not clearly identified any teaching influences!
Reflect on the particular personal and professional characteristics of these influential teachers.
|I have identified, discussed and reflected in depth on their personal and professional characteristics
|I have identified, discussed and reflected somewhat on their personal and professional characteristics.
I have identified some characteristics but need to focus more on discussing and reflecting on them.
|I have not engaged in discussion nor reflection yet…
Identify 3 of your teaching principles / beliefs and show how these emerged from the above portraits.
I have reflected on my practice and influences and provided a coherent, clear conceptual statement of my personal teaching principles / beliefs.
|I have reflected on my practice and influences and provided a clear conceptual statement of my teaching principles/ beliefs.
|My teaching principles /beliefs statement requires further reflection and detail to gain more perspective.
|I have not provided a statement of my teaching principles/ beliefs.
|Discuss the implications of these principles/beliefs for your teaching and student learning in this academic year.
|I have reflected on student understanding & insightfully stated ways of improving my practice.
|I have considered student understanding and indicated ways of improving my practice.
|I have considered student learning and need to work on integrating this with my practice.
I have not considered student learning/ understanding nor its implications for practice.
Pre-submission check list
- I have conducted a Self- Assessment of my work
- I have highlighted the appropriate categories of the Rubric
- I have submitted a copy of my completed rubric to the assignment
- I have named the submitted file TL6003_SunameInitial_Assign1 (i.e: TL6003_BloggsJ_Assign1)
- I have proof-read my work.
- In uploading the assignment, I am confirming that it complies with UCC plagiarism policy and that it is all my own work.
Bernstein, D. (2010) ‘Finding Your Place in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning’ International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 4(2) pp. 1-6 [Online]. Available from https://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1224&context=ij-sotl [Accessed 28th September 2021].
Biggs, K., Tang, C., (2007). Teaching for Quality Learning at University. 3rd ed. Berkshire: Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.
Chickering, A.W. and Gamson, Z.F. (1987) ‘Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education’ AAHE Bulletin Mar 1987 pp. 3-7 [Online]. Available from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED282491.pdf [Accessed 28th September 2021].
Foster, D. D. and Whittington, M. S. (2017) ‘Instructors’ Use of the Principles of Teaching and Learning During College Class Sessions’. Journal of Agricultural Education. 58 (4), pp. 98-109 [Online]. Available from www.jae-online.org/attachments/article/2104/2017-4-07%20Foster.pdf
[Accessed 01st October 2021].
Glenn, M., Roche, M., McDonagh, C., and Sullivan, B., (2017) Learning Communities in Educational Partnerships Action Research as Transformation. London: Bloomsbury
Hetland, L., (2002) Educating for Understanding: A Guide to the Video Series. Port-Chester NY: Dude Publishing.
Mc Carthy, M. (2008) ‘Teaching for Understanding For Lecturers: Towards a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning’ In Murray, R. (ed.) The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Berkshire: OUP Mc Graw Hill, pp. 6-16.
Mc Taggart, B. Doherty, A and O’Murchu, C. (2018) ‘A Road Less Travelled, a Road Nonetheless’. AISHE-J 10 (3), pp. 3411 -34116 [Online]. Available from https://ojs.aishe.org/index.php/aishe-j/article/view/341/623 [Accessed 28th September 2021].
Moore, S., Walsh, G., and Risquez, A., (2007). Teaching at College and University Effective Strategies and Key Principles. England: Open University Press Mc Graw Hill
Newcomb, L. H., McCracken, J. D., Warmbrod, J. R., & Whittington, M. S. (2004). Methods of teaching agriculture. (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
O’Connor, P. (2010) ‘Effective Teaching and Learning in Higher Education: a United Kingdom Perspective,’ The ITB Journal 11 (1), pp 99-124 [Online]. Available from https://arrow.tudublin.ie/itbj/vol11/iss1/8 [Accessed 28th September 2021].
Price, P.C. (2006) ‘Are you as good a teacher as you think’ The NEA Higher Education Journal Fall 2006, pp. 7-14 [Online]. Available from http://tobackgroup.physics.tamu.edu/toback/TeachingArticle/Nebraska.pdf [Accessed 01st October 2021].
Prosser, M., and Trigwell, K., (1999) Understanding Learning and Teaching, The Experience in Higher Education. Buckingham: the Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press
Ramsden, P., (2003) Learning to Teach in Higher Education. London: Routledge, Falmer.
Assignment 1 Feedback/Comments:
Hi Colette, Thanks for your insightful and well written/referenced Entry 1. You had caught my attention from the off in your first paragraph of mentioning the “flying duster” which I say flying too in my 90’s days in secondary school! I particularly found the last sentence in your opening paragraph very interesting in that, as a mature student, you were frustrated by the lack of interest of some of your younger colleagues in the class. You did not really elaborate on this point further in your entry, and I would like to hear more about this from you in perhaps later entries to TL6003/6004 where possible. Your secondary school English teacher, Ms.D. had three key traits which has stuck with you since – motivation, reward and reinforcement. I all to often think of reward from a student perspective as marks. However, your reference to reward is much broader than this, and what students consider rewarding can be very individualistic. A memorable and legacy characteristic of your third level social policy lecturer was they being approachable, and the sense of empowerment and confidence they gave you. Confidence and the willingness to express that confidence is something that does not come naturally to many Irish third level students. Undertaking the TL Cert gives one an opportunity to reflect and critique on ones own teaching styles and how students learn, not only from how you teach them, but from their innate learning capacity. This is also something you elaborated upon, and I would hope all Cert students also think in this manner. I look forward to reading your further Entries during the academic year. J.J.