Monday, 29 September 2008

Assessing Courses for Teacher Training

At the start of the DipLaTHE course, each of us was asked to say what we thought teaching was. Each person's view is very dependent on their expectations of the course. Some people are expecting to be given practical advice and that the course will teach you how to be a good teacher. They are less interested or not interested at all in the theories of pedagogy. Others take a different approach they are more open to the ideas of theory and the possibility that being a good teacher is a goal that you always try to achieve but never succeed.

What is interesting to me is the range of proposals for the final portfolios. Almost everyone had changed their view of what they could learn from the course. Almost everyone had embraced a "deeper" approach to learning about teaching. This might be because they have read the assessment criteria and they have adapted their portfolio plans to meet these criteria, while their underlying beliefs have remained unchanged, but this is not true in most cases. So the course has been effective as it has changed the participant's perspectives about their teaching and student learning.

The course is effective because it has clearly stated aims and these are aligned to the course assessment. One of the most common causes for courses failure is that they do not have clearly defined aims and learning objectives, or if they do have objectives they are not successfully aligned with the assessment.

My own experience is a little misleading as I have been on such a course before and so I was not coming into the programme as a blank slate. When I was appointed as a lecturer in Exeter we were required to attend a SEDA accredited course for new lecturers. The course lasted two years but after the first year because of a lack of institutional support the main staff of the course left the University and without that momentum most of my cohort did not submit their final portfolios even if like me they had got to a draft stage.

So in terms of Fox's personal views of teaching I did not start the course from the same point as those tutors who took part in his survey. What was interesting to me was reading some of the same papers again. When I had read them before I had made some notes and now I could see how my own viewpoint had changed over the intervening years. My own experience agrees very much with Fox.

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