Stages of Teaching [30min]

A brief listing of the various stages a teacher goes through from beginner and on.

I wouldn’t say that every teacher goes through these stages (nor should), but here we go:

  1. Survivor – the goal is to survive, to get through the material for each day, avoid any disasters, and just make it to the end. Pedagogy, student learning outcomes, etc. are not under consideration.
  2. Lecturer – the focus is on the presentation, the quality of the graphics, examples, jokes, etc. Any failures (by student or teacher) usually causes the lecturer to just increase his or her effort and preparation. Sadly, this stage is often evaluated highly by some students and by most colleague during in-class reviews.
  3. Narcissist – a lecturer taking it to the next level, loving the sound of his or her own voice. This is much like the Lecturer, except that the students are often treated as a necessary nuisance (any failure is blamed on them). If the students figure this out, the evaluations drop, otherwise they accept the conclusion that the professor is so smart and they just aren’t good enough. Most colleagues view Narcissists as good teachers, although they might sense that something is wrong.
  4. Devotee – the focus is on the students, how they are managing the course, and their success. The course is often often highly organized with many extra resources for the student. Problems again tend to cause the lecturer to devote him or herself to developing more resources and holding more office hours, etc. Since students are often happier in such a class, they work a little harder, are successful, and evaluate the course positively. Unfortunately this stage creates a spiraling symbiotic relationship between the student and teacher (the happiness of the student for the positive reviews of the teacher) and learning often is diminished.
  5. Innovator – the focus is on learning but often through specific innovations and technology. There is more focus on learning theory based approaches and overall there’s a better match in this stage between what is done in class and what we want students to learn. Ideally the innovation supports the learning, but it can go where the point of the innovation is to innovate.
  6. Master Lecturer – the focus is on the instructor, but it is all optimized to support student learning. There are elements of the Devotee and Innovator in terms of course organization, innovation and technology. For most students this is what they expect of a great teacher.
  7. Mentor – the ying to the Master Lecture yang; focused on student learning, but now there’s more focus on student satisfaction and success. The Mentor knows how to encourage students without risking being trapped into depending on their happiness. Mentors end up being very popular for independent study, letters of recommendation, and graduation parties.
  8. Rebel – an almost insane devotion to doing whatever it takes to make learning happen, usually taking unusual approaches. All the ‘standards’ are fair game for modification or even avoidance. This is the teacher that everyone knows about, some students avoid, but most students who take the class, end up learning more than they ever expected.

There are others, and variations of these. In any case, I hope you are always paying attention to your teaching and looking for ways to grow.

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