The greatest session by far that I attended at SHAPE America was titled Self-Study of Teacher Education Practice in Physical Education Teacher Education. I chose this session simply because I was walking around and bumped into Shrehan Lynch (@misslynchpe). She told me she was running late for a session that she was presenting for. I had previously participated in her TGFU and Netball and had a blast. We were playing games and moving for the bulk of the session. I had left sweaty and happy from that one so this one had to be similar correct? I probably should have looked at the title of the session before I made that assumption.
I sat down at a table and listened to a professor read the most boring research for at least 30 minutes. He barely made eye contact with the audience and only paused once every five minutes to make a statement that wasn’t written down directly on paper in front of him. It was all I could do to stay awake and not click Yahoo to find out what President 45 had done to upset another group of people that day. I had no idea what the session was about and was just hoping to hear Shrehan speak so I could leave quickly after.
You may be asking yourself why would I go to a session without looking at the title? Better yet you may have clicked on the link and wondered why I was at a session that clearly stated it was for Postsecondary Instructor/Faculty. Here is my philosophy on attending sessions. If someone is a great presenter I will learn and be engaged no matter the content. A similar philosophy I have is asking the waiter what is the best item on a menu and ordering that. It opens me up to new experiences I would not have had before. But I digress.
When did this session that started out with someone with a similar affect to Ben Stein turn around? It occurred right after they split us up and we sat at tables and began what became a light bulb moment for me. It was finally time to hear what Shrehan had to say. She began by telling us how she had struggled with teaching at the University Level in Alabama. She had come over from England and stated that her classes were more akin to high sophomores in England that what she had expected college students would be. Her lessons were not meeting her expectations and she wanted to find a way to change this.
This is where she started to use self-study of teaching and teacher education practices which we will now add another acronym to the long and ridiculous list and call it S-Step.
Self-study of teaching and teacher education practices, abbreviated as S-STEP, or self-study, is a genre of educational research concerned with examining and improving the relationship between teaching and learning in teacher education contexts. In self-study, the teacher educator him/herself is both the researcher and the main focus of the study. Self-study is concerned with the acquisition and development of teacher educators’ knowledge of practice and how such knowledge can inform and enhance learning and teaching about teaching. The process of knowledge development in self-study is initiated through the teacher educator’s capacity and willingness to publicly problematize his/her taken for granted beliefs and practices about teaching and learning; to be open to, and act upon, the curiosities, surprises, and challenges of everyday teaching practice; and to actively seek out alternative perspectives on practice. Link
She detailed how she used journaling, Socrative.com, critical friends, peer faculty interviews as well as other ways in order to get feedback on her class. The lightbulb of connection turned on when I realized that I was already doing most of these practices. I ask my students every trimester to rate me and use that data to change my teaching. Shrehan used Socrative to poll them every class. It is the same idea however she is more intentional as well as more frequent than I. I do not believe that people with power, teachers or administrative, ask for enough feedback from the people they lead who do not have much power. If you are not asking the people who you are directly in charge of you are not serious about getting better at your craft.
Ms. Lynch went on to talk about how she journals and uses that as her reflective tool. I use Voxer as my reflective tool. Again the difference is she is more intentional about how often and how specific she is with her reflection. I usually just talk about what went right or wrong and how I can make it better with a group of teachers.
What I really enjoyed about the session is that she was honest about two parts of her reflection that were not helping her as much as she thought they would so she dropped them. She spoke about having a critical friend conversation once a month where they would go over her thoughts and together see what improvements she could do. I would venture to say that if she got on Voxer with other professors that were native to the United States this would have more of an impact for her.
The other point she made was that having another professor come in and interview her students didn’t seem to work well. They did not have a level of comfort with an outside professor where these conversations could be authentic.
After she told her S-Step journey we opened up the conversation to the table. I did not ask permission to publish their stories so I will not discuss them but the conversations were interesting. There was a professor from Florida via Turkey, a professor from China who works in a state in the US I can’t recall, as well as a professor from Tennessee. Everyone came up with an action plan and then we went around the table and gave positive and critical feedback on their plan.
My plan is to start my S-Step journey. I am already halfway there. All I have to do is come up with questions that aren’t so biased for my students and be more intentional about my reflections. The part of S-Step that I liked was that they wanted you to publish your findings in a journal. This would be done so that your journey might help others. I think this is a fantastic idea if you have the time and want to put in the effort. I would imagine most professors want that prestige.
My final thoughts on the session are as follows. The S-Step is an egghead way of saying create a PLN and be intentional with improving as a professional. Asking your staff and students for feedback should be a mainstay. Using that feedback is the key! We all know about the end of the year survey we get that is unfortunately too little too late. I also personally I don’t need to be published in a journal. I need to write a blog, hop on Voxer, or get a Youtube Channel going. I would venture to say that more professors would want to listen to a Podcast, read a blog, or watch a video.
Educators who care do most of S-Step naturally! It is ironic that this is being presented as a newer idea. I also believe that this session would have been beneficial for every educator not just college professionals. Another wonder I have is why was this session was so needlessly dry to begin with. I usually don’t attend a session like this when I read the description because I would be bored. Presentations are lessons. Lessons shouldn’t be dull. I wonder if this is how professors teach in academia. You sit and listen and take notes. It’s interesting that the research doesn’t support this type of teaching when they are the ones who are the research experts. Use the research out there. Change your delivery style. Figure out a way to give us the research in a way that doesn’t keep the power of language in the hands of those who stand the most to benefit from it. Maybe it is just me but bring the study to a level that makes sense to the common person who hasn’t spent years doing research and writing papers. I am hesitant to think that everyone in the room understood or grasped that entire research history that was plowed through in 30 minutes. Then again what was I doing in a session made for professors anyway right?