Sunday, July 10, 2016

Teacher as Student

Summer is a time of re-energizing for many faculty. It is also a great time for some focused professional development without the constant stress of teaching. One of the best forms of professional development available it to become a student yourself. It is through the experience of putting on the student hat that I often find myself seeing a need for deeper empathy for busy schedules, distractions, and the frustration of unclear navigation or assignment directions.  When I take online PD courses such as Quality Matters, it requires me to work in Moodle, a platform I am unfamiliar with, and it brings to light many of the stumbling areas that our students experience when working online. Directions that seem clear to the instructor can be interpreted with confusion by students; vocabulary we are familiar with ("Download"; "Post"; "Attach") may be very familiar to us, but not to someone new or coming back to school after many years. 
In RTC's  eLearning Certificate courses for faculty, we have "soft" weekly deadlines, asking that participants use them for guidelines, but understanding that some will be working in spurts and starts.   I have had many participants express gratitude for this.  Are there ways we can allow the kind of flexibility in our regular courses?  
Face to face courses offer us similar opportunities to glean teaching ideas based on our experience as a learner. I have found so many Do's and Don'ts  by attending classes, seminars, and presentations. While sitting in the student seat, we have a chance to step back and reflect on what it means to learn according to someone else's standards and expectations. It gives us the chance to re-think our own style, incorporate new ideas, and make mental notes on what to avoid. 
Faculty, I hope you have the chance to be a student this summer. If you are looking for ways to do this, you can sign up for a MOOC at Canvas.net or Coursera.org, or look for opportunities in your institution or area, including free library presentations and programs offered by the city.  Re-energize as a student, and start fall with a refreshed perspective. 



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