When I first started as a professor, I felt that what students needed to do well in a class, above all else, was precise, error-free lectures, and lot’s of practice doing problems. Based on this ideas, I did most of my lectures from slides that I had very carefully prepared before hand, and gave the class lots and lots of problems to solve. This actually worked pretty well for a while – I got great feedback from students, was nominated for some teaching awards, and enjoyed the experience.
However, eventually I realized that my lectures were not as exciting as they could be. I read some articles on Tomorrows Professor listserv, that bemoaned the use of pre-prepared slides. They claimed that extensive use of slides makes lectures completely predictable and unresponsive. This semester, as an experiment, I stopped using slides, or even lecture notes of any kind. I memorize enough of the lecture so that I can be sure to use terminology that is reasonably close to the textbook and to the notes I’ve posted from previous years of the class.
How have things changed? I find teaching a more exciting and sometimes scary activity. Also, it’s easier for me to respond to feedback from the class as a whole about e.g. whether it’s worthwhile to go over an example of a particular concept. When a student asks an interesting question, I definitely spend more time than I used to on exploring the answer in depth. For me, at least, the lectures are a lot more fun and challenging. From the feedback I’m getting from students so far, they also seem to be more engaged. Do I make more mistakes in lecture? Definitely. However, I feel that I’m slowly getting better at checking things on the fly and am making fewer mistakes now than when I started this.
How has this changed my teaching philosophy? I realize now that a big part of education is inspiration, motivation, and a kind of educational “entertainment”. I also realize that it’s just much more engrossing and memorable to watch someone walk carefully across a rope in the air, than to trudge across a line on the floor that was drawn before the performance even began!
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