Shifting Focus from Content to Teaching

At Faculty Guild, our facilitators participate in the same weekly journaling and reflection process that our fellows experience. Facilitator Karen Costa agreed to let us share one of her early reflections in this blog.

The Value of Reflection

I remember my 25-year-old self, teaching my first college course. I remember the room number: 182. I had never taught before and had been handed a textbook that I didn't end up using and a course description. 

Now, I feel as if I've just gone through a boot camp in how to be a great teacher, starting with a shift from focusing on content to focusing on teaching.

When I received my facilitator progress report last week, I noted that my focus on content was identified as an issue. I still didn't quite get it; it was a bit like sitting on one's own head wondering where it is. Then Lisa, a training coach, and I had our individual meeting, and I got a bit closer. After that meeting, I looked back at my original two responses in the Unit 1 reflections. Upon reading the first sentences, I had a hand-to-forehead moment. "I keep talking about content!" 

Then, I completed an activity where we were asked to choose and defend the evidence-based instructional practices, or tags, for various reflections. I decided to choose my own tags before peeking at the tags my circle peers had already chosen. For me, that was the “aha moment” when I really started to feel comfortable shifting from content to teaching. Since then, I have fallen in love with the process of putting on my "tag glasses" and identifying which tags are most applicable to a post.

A Teaching Journey

A part of me wishes I'd been able to apply this model more effectively from the beginning. My nine-year son, Fred, likes to do everything perfectly on his first try. I have NO idea where he gets that from.

But I realize that many of our fellows will also start out with a focus on content over teaching. Having been where they are will make me a more effective and empathetic facilitator. In truth, I've always learned best from people who have struggled a bit on their path and lived to tell about it. 

I want to share a quote from a book by Rebecca Campbell that I was reading last week. It speaks perfectly to my experience:

"I believe that the things that you are here to teach are the very things that you most need to learn, and that the best teachers are the ones that struggle the most because when they get itthey get it with a triple smack down."

A Closing Thought

I wonder what would be different if I'd had the Faculty Guild experience when I was starting out? What would higher education look like if all faculty were given these tools and supported in using them? 

Or perhaps better said, what WILL it look like when that happens? :)

Karen Costa is a facilitator with Faculty Guild and an adjunct professor. She also writes regularly for Women in Higher Education.