Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Those who can... teach

Once again Kathy over at Creating Passionate Users has struck a chord with me in her post Ten Tips for New Trainers/Teachers. She said, in part,
Just because you've used lots of software doesn't mean you can write code. Just because you've been in lots of buildings doesn't mean you can be an architect. And just because you've logged a million frequent flyer miles doesn't mean you can fly a plane.

But if that's all ridiculously obvious, why do some people believe that just because they've taken classes, they can teach? (Or just because they've read lots of books, they can write one?) The problem isn't thinking that they can do it, the problem is thinking they can do it without having to learn, study, or practice.

I'm amazed (and more than a little disheartened) how many people believe that simply by virtue of their being skilled and knowledgeable in something, they're implicitly qualified to communicate, mentor, teach, or train that thing. It devalues the art of teaching to think that because you've been a student, you can teach well. That because you've experienced learning, you can craft a learning experience.

She goes on to say that having a PhD may not be necessary, but you can't just wing it. She goes on to list Eleven Things to Know and Ten Tips for Trainers.

As a teacher, I appreciate the fact that someone recognizes that it requires something more than subject matter knowledge to teach. The current trend in federal regulations and state teacher licensing seems to only concern itself with that subject matter stuff, and I think a teacher needs more than that in order to be successful. As a professional, I am continually upgrading my skills and my knowledge -- both about my subject matter and about pedagogy and human behavior and lots of other things. I take this very seriously, as do most teachers I know.

I advise you to check out her post if you haven't yet.


Anonymous said...

What does that say about Professors in higher education where there is no requirement for any certification. Are they not necessarily teachers?

I agree that teaching requires more skill than just domain knowledge of the subject matter. Why then do we let our teachers at the most advanced knowledge get in with nothing more than a certified knowledge of the domain?

Nancy A. McKeand said...

I am afraid I have no answer to that. It is a serious problem, I think. Knowing about Chemistry, for instance, certainly doesn't mean you can teach it!

I think that we could say that professors are not necessarily teachers in the way I use that word. I know many professors who are excellent teachers, but I know many who are not.

The sad thing is that there doesn't seem to be any feeling out there that professors should be able to teach well. In college and university it is usually thought to be the student's fault if he doesn't get it.