Friday, June 19, 2015

Zeno's paradox of teaching

I've wrapped up my Spring term teaching and received my teaching evals. Now that I've (finally) had a chance to teach the same class a few times, I am starting to believe in what I call Zeno's Paradox of Teaching: every time I teach a class, my improvement in teaching quality is half the distance between quality of the last time I taught it and my maximum ability to teach that material.
If I'm right about this, then I think it means that it's important to think long-term when approaching teaching:
  1. New faculty (like me) should start by teaching primarily core courses, ones that are offered every year, have good support materials, and provide a consistent opportunity for improvement. Specialized seminars can be fun to teach, but if they're not going to be offered every year, then improvement will be slow.
  2. Don't drive yourself (myself) crazy trying to teach the "perfect" class on your (my) first time teaching. Try to do a good job and next time try to improve on it as much as possible.
  3. Zeno's paradox means that I'll never teach quite as well as I think I could teach. The positive message there is that one should continue trying to come up with creative ways to improve a course. The warning there is that perfection is not an appropriate standard and not to be too hard on oneself for failing to reach it.

No comments:

Post a Comment