May we do work that matters. Vale la pena, it’s worth the pain.
- Gloria E. Anzaldua (2005, p. 102)
Robert B. Barr and John Tagg argued twenty five years ago that a paradigm shift was taking place in higher education. This shift was from a teaching paradigm to a learning paradigm. Institutions of higher education would no longer be understood as existing “to provide instruction,” but rather as existing “to produce learning” (italics in original). This mattered to Barr and Tagg because they believed that the dominant paradigm of education confused a means for an end. In this current moment of crisis, it seems that we are reverting back to that dominant paradigm. What technologies do we need to teach our courses? Should my course be in-person, online, or hybrid? These are, of course, important questions, but they confuse the means for the end.
Teaching is a radical act of hope. It is an assertion of faith in a better future in and increasingly uncertain and fraught present. It is a commitment to that future even if we can’t clearly discern its shape. It is a continuing pedagogical practice rather than a set of static characteristics. Simply put, we teach because we believe it matters. -Kevin M. Gannon (2020, p. 5)
If we are to teach courses that contribute to positive social change, we must focus on what we want students to learn, how we facilitate that learning, and what that means for us as teachers. This will then allow us to make better (both in terms of quality and efficiency) decisions about the specifics of our teaching modalities and tools.
To get started, reflect on your views of education, teaching and learning. Use this exercise to identify what matters to you. This will provide you with a compass to guide your course when you get lost in the details, the worry, and the speculation.
Reflect on your views of education, teaching and learning.Step 1: Consider another's educational compass
Choose 2 or more of these short readings, audio recordings, or videos that interest you. As you read, listen, and/or watch, consider how the speakers’ beliefs and values could serve as a compass for designing a course.
Step 2: What is your compass?
Use this worksheet to think through what matters to you about education generally, and your discipline and course specifically. Note: While we think all these questions are useful to think through, you should skip any questions that do not help you. Regardless, read all of the questions to find the questions that will most serve you.