For anyone who would like to become an engaging and transformative educator, there are strategies which can be can be implemented.
Strategy #1: Transform Through Development of Your Instructional Practice
While any educator can learn through time on the job, it is possible to become intentional about this growth. There are numerous online resources, publications, workshops, webinars, and professional groups which will allow you to learn new methods, strategies, and practices. There are also social media websites such as LinkedIn and Twitter which allow for the exchange of ideas and resources within a global community of educators.
You can also utilize self-reflection as a means of gauging your effectiveness. I have found that the best time to review my instructional practice occurs immediately after a class has concluded. That is a time when I can assess the strategies I have used and determine if those methods were effective. Even reviewing end-of-course student surveys may provide insight into the perspective of my students, and whether or not every survey submitted was positive. Students tend to submit a survey response either when they are happy or greatly unhappy about the course. Either way, I can learn something about what my students have experienced during the class.
Strategy #2: Transform Through Development of Your Academic Skills
I know from my work with online faculty development this is an area of development many educators could use. However, it is often viewed as a low priority until it is noted in classroom audits. If an educator has weak academic writing skills, it will interfere with their ability to provide comprehensive feedback to students.
For online instructors, this has an even greater impact when posted messages contain errors in spelling, grammar, and formatting. The development of academic skills can be done through the use of online resources or workshops. Many online schools I have worked for offer faculty workshops and this is a valuable self-development resource.
Strategy #3: Transform Through Development of Your Subject Matter Expertise
Every educator has subject matter expertise they can draw upon. However, the challenge is keeping this knowledge current as you continue to teach for several years. The best advice I can offer is to find resources that allow you to read and learn about current thinking, research, and best practices in your chosen field.
This is essential to your instructional practice as students can easily tell whether you appear to be current in your knowledge, or outdated and seemingly out of touch. Even the use of required textbooks or resources does not ensure that you are utilizing the most current information as knowledge evolves quickly in many fields.
Strategy #4: Transform Through Development of Your Knowledge of Adult Learning
The last step or strategy I can recommend is to gain knowledge about adult learning theories, principles, and practices. If you are not familiar with the basics there are concepts you can research and including critical thinking, andragogy, self-directed learning, transformational learning, learning styles, motivation, and cognition.
My suggestion is to find and read online sources related to higher education and then find a subject that interests you to research further. I have found the more I read about topics I enjoy, the more I am cultivating my interest in ongoing professional development. What you will likely find is what you learn will have a positive influence on your work as an educator and this will enhance all areas of your instructional practice.
Working as an educator, or someone who is highly engaged in the process of helping students learn starts with a commitment to make this a career rather than a job. I have developed a vision related to how I want to be involved in each class I teach and I recommend the same strategy for you. You may find it useful to develop teaching goals for your career and link your classroom performance to those goals. For example, do you want to complete the required facilitation tasks, or would you rather put in the additional time necessary to create nurturing class conditions?
After developing a vision and teaching goals, you can create a professional development plan to prompt your learning and growth in all of the areas I have addressed above. While this strategy may require an investment of time, it is helpful to remember that we always make time for whatever we believe is most important.
Being an educator is not sustaining a focus on job functions, rather it is cultivating a love of what you do and learning how to excel for the benefit of your students. Becoming an engaging and transformative educator occurs when you decide teaching students is only part of the learning process, and you work to transform who you are and how you function while working and interacting with your students.
When you transform your teaching or faculty role and become an educator, regardless of your job title, you also transform the learning experience of your students. You provide for them the critical element necessary for real learning to occur, substantive instructor involvement, and engagement. More importantly, you humanize the learning experience and you can help to nurture their developmental needs. Students will leave your class transformed in some manner, having learned something they can apply to their academic pursuits, life, and/or career. You will be transformed and so will your students.
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