Saturday, November 13, 2010
This essay should appeal to anyone substantively interested in teaching. Authored by Washington University Law School Professor David Becker, it is available at 87 Wash. U. L. Rev. 1105 (2010).
From the introduction:
Teachers are accustomed to teaching students, but experienced teachers must also teach teachers. In some instances, law professors are asked to visit and evaluate the classes of non-tenured colleagues. Often evaluations include advice that is intended to improve the subject's teaching, and this advice may be the most important component of the total process. More often, perhaps, law professors are asked to mentor young colleagues by the school's dean or directly by the young colleague herself. Inevitably, such mentoring involves guidance respecting the production of scholarship, but it almost always includes instruction about teaching.
What is it that one teacher can and should convey to another, especially when classroom observations suggest problems and a real need for improvement? The temptation is to say: 'Come watch me and do as I do.' Yet even when the recipe for success is not this brazen, the package of advice may amount to the same thing, especially when it is replete with specific instruction that invariably begins: 'Here is the way I would do it.' Yet is 'do as I do' ever a sound approach? If not, what is? Are there any constants to a wise approach to teaching teachers about teaching students? What are the ingredients of successful teaching and can they be taught? This essay examines these questions and attempts to identify some of the things that one may do to improve teaching, at least around the edges.