Growing as a teacher

Yesterday I had a lunchtime discussion meeting with some of my colleagues doing the Post Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Teaching.  It was really a social session with the idea of being able to learn from each other with regard to our teaching experiences and the things we’re doing with our classes. 

The PGCertTT at Waikato consists of two papers. The first one, which I did last year, involves undertaking and evaluating a couple of teaching initiatives with one or more student classes. One of these is focused on assessment – I think that’s a good idea since so much of what students learn is driven by what they are being assessed on. 

The second paper (this year’s) involves preparation of a couple of portfolios.  One is a ‘career’ portfolio, which includes things you might wish to include with a CV or application for a teaching job – e.g. information about your professional development, publications on teaching, feedback from students, examples of teaching initiatives you’ve tried, and so on. The other portfolio is the ‘personal’ one, which is more of what a die-hard scientist would call a wishy-washy touchy-feely thing, which looks at things like your teaching beliefs and how these have changed, important events that gave you insights into teaching, future plans, etc.  The good news for me is that I’ve basically done most of the touchy-feely-personal-portfolio-thing last year as part of applying for a faculty and then university teaching award  (I got a faculty one, but not a university one).  The career portfolio should be rather more straightforward.

Anyway, getting back to what I wanted to say, at this meeting  several of us were enlightened by talking to others about just how much stuff they had available to put in their portfolios.  By talking about the kinds of things we’d done with our students, ways that we’d reported on that at conferences etc, a lot of us realized that we actually had done more than we thought on our own development of teachers.  Perhaps the very-kiwi thing about not shouting about how well you’ve been doing something eventaully leads you to believe yourself that you haven’t done well at it, and it takes others to tease that information out of you. Something to remember when we mark student work – they need to know when they have done it well, not just what they’ve got wrong.  So I realized that there’s a bit of stuff I could feed into my career portfolio that I would tend to dismiss as ‘trivial’, but others would disagree.

Oh, and also, there’s one more task that I need to do this year, which is keep a reflective journal during the process of doing the personal portfolio. A blog counts as a suitable medium, so you’ll get a few posts in the forthcoming weeks about what I’m feeling and recalling about my teaching, interspersed, of course, with more direct physics ones. Hope you enjoy it. 

I’ll be away from work for the next three weeks, so blog entries will reduce, but hopefully not stop altogether.

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