Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Spellings' Report and Beyond, IV

Shelley Rodrigo went to the Phoenix summit, participated in our featured session, and came away from the experience with a new take on the scholarship of teaching and learning that also speaks to Boyer's scholarship of engagement. In this piece she explores why going public is now part of our everyday, workaday world.

Speaker IV
Shelley Rodrigo
Mesa Community College
Disciplinary Representation & Professional Responsibilities

As was already mentioned a couple of times by the time I spoke, the summer meetings were primarily made up of high level administrators, regional business, industry, and public officials, as well as individuals from educational industries, especially testing services. If these individuals had ever been in a classroom, it had been a very long time since they had seen the inside of one. At the Phoenix meeting, where I attended, the only people in the room who were still teaching classes where the individuals who had been invited at the suggestion of NCTE. As English instructors, especially of universally required first year composition, many of us regularly work with a representative cross-section of students at our institutions. Not only should we be thankful to Paul Bodmer and NCTE for getting us invited to participate in these discussions, the Department of Education should be thankful to Paul and NCTE for getting actual faculty, who have the closest connect to actual students, participating in these discussions.

During the various discussions of access, affordability, and accountability the faculty representatives were the ones who were able to give detailed examples and anecdotes to help elaborate or sometimes complicate the issues. To put this in terms of Linda Adler-Kassner's discussion of framing, it was the faculty lead discussion of specifics that allowed for the expansion, reinterpretation, and even breaking of the frames that the various high level administrators, business persons, and politicians used to make meaning of the issues.

Participating in these discussions helped me to realize that there is a shift in what it will take to be a faculty member in the 21st century. This shift in faculty roles parallels the description of the different types of teaching that Shulman (2000) discusses in his definition of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). We are all Good teachers, critically reflecting on our teaching practices and revising as necessary. Most of us take pride in being Scholarly teachers, teachers who base our teaching practices on the sound pedagogical practices based on the research and theories we read in scholarship. While faculty who practice SoTL research their own practices and take the big step of making that research public so that others can benefit from what they have learned.

Teachers in the 21st century, especially English teachers responsible for making sure Johnny can write, need to make similar distinctions about their scholarly service, especially going public. Good service includes participating at the institution and in the discipline. Scholarly service, however, requires going public. And what we've learned from participating in the regional summits is that going public in scholarly service includes the need to be political. Participating in the political discussions that affect decision making about educational practices and policies is crucial. Going public also includes being transparent, inviting administrators, business persons, and politicians into our classrooms so they see what is going on. To be a faculty member doing scholarly service in the 21st century means to go public, the former "private" classroom is now political.

Finally, to help faculty make this step from good service to scholarly service, we need institutions like NCTE, the Council of Writing Program Administrators (WPA), and the Association of American Colleges and University (AAC&U) promoting a scholarship of political service. For example, both the NCTE and AAC&U have developed robust public outreach elements that help to change how the press represents English studies and higher education respectively. This is critically important and individual faculty members need to know about these resources so they can refer to them; however, promoting a scholarship of political service would be more like what the WPA is starting to do with their Network for Media Action. The WPA's Network for Media Action is asking individuals to participate. The group also occasionally provides literature and workshops to help individuals do political service. A scholarship of political service would help individual faculty members figure out how to fit political service into their already busy schedules, what to do, and what to say to start facilitating positive change at a local level. Not many of us signed up to be teachers thinking advocacy would be a regular part of our job; however, being a faculty member in the 21st century now demands it. Reference:

Shulman, Lee. (2000). From Minsk to Pinsk: Why a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. The Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 1(1), 48-53. Retrieved October 30, 2007, from http://www.iupui.edu/~josotl/VOL_1/NO_1/SHULMAN.PDF.

4 comments:

Shelley said...

After our presentation, one of the audience members agreed that we should be more open and public about our teaching; however, when/how/where do we fit these activities into our already completely packed schedules?

The obvious answer is to do things like invite various individuals (parents, other instructors, administrators, legislators, etc.) into the classroom. However, we all know that inviting them in is not as simple as just saying “come on by” (although we can do just that). For example, I know if someone is coming to my class I want to share my lesson plans, talk to them afterwards, etc. Although I still think we should be making these types of blanket invitations (which I realize I need to make more systematically during this next semester), we can also incorporate various technologies to help become “more public” in a systematic and consistent manner.

Just as easily as NCTE set up blogs at Blogger, we can start a blog that reflects on our various lessons and activities. In other words, take that teaching journal you’ve continued to keep, and make it public. Think about the ways you can invite students, parents, and administrators to read and respond (blogs have reply areas) to what you are doing.

Wikis are another opportunity to share what you are doing, especially with your colleagues. The beauty of wikis is that multiple audience members can actually change the page. So imagine posting specific activity plans and prompts and then having other faculty members go in and revise the activity based on their own experiences. Many of the wiki software (like Wetpaint and Wikispaces) also include the ability to have discussions on each page, so like with the blogs parents, students, and administrators can swing by your wiki site and leave questions and comments about what you posted.

Fortune favors the bold! Consider turning the tables on those students who are “secretly” video taping your classes and posting it to YouTube; or, like I played around this past semester, do screen captures of your online classes, post and annotate the images in Flickr. And like mentioned with blogs and wikis, these sites also allow for discussions via replies.

If these sounds like wonderful ideas, don’t forget that your students have rights and you’ll probably want to get permission from them (or their parents), especially if you are video taping class. However, if you decide to make these type of reflective acts are consistent part of your professional actions, consider explicitly inviting your students, parent, and administrators to participate. Tell them what you are doing; invite them to subscribe to the RSS feed outlet (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0klgLsSxGsU) of each technology that will update them whenever you’ve posted anything new.

Ultimately, be aware. If you decide to make your teaching public in this manner, you are acknowledging that your teaching is a process, not a product. As a process you have good and bad days; with bad days becoming just as public as the good ones. I have found that my students appreciate this openness. They appreciate knowing that I am struggling like them, trying to balance my personal and professional, struggling to work with technology, and putting things off to the last minute and cramming it in to get done. Be aware, you make yourself public, you make yourself human. As professionals in the humanities, is this a bad thing?

Shelley said...

To follow up again a little later, I think we are continuing to see a trend towards transparency. In a brief Carnegie Perspectives article , Molly Breen talks about using technology to make student learning public. Obviously there is no direct connection to NCLB or Spellings; however, I think the connection can be made in just the act of doing good work and making it public.

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