Media and the affective domain – Veronica Brown

I am still letting last week’s thoughts about expressive activities leading to expressive outcomes rummage around in my head. For now, I’d like to talk about the value of media in instruction and assessment of the affective domain. I’d like you to take a few minutes to look at the following three examples.

Example 1 – Tacoma Narrows Bridge

First, watch this video. It shows the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse in 1940.

The image of that bridge oscillating has stayed with me all these years. We watched that film (yes, this was pre-YouTube and I’m almost positive it was a film) in high school physics. For me, it was life-changing. Sounds a bit dramatic but I could never look at a structure the same way again. Even watching it today, a thousand questions run through my mind. How did that happen? Not just the physics of it but the human side, too. Who reviewed all the specs? How did this possibly happen? Can concrete actually move like that? Why did that car get stuck there? Was anyone hurt?  But as I sit at my computer writing this blog, a different question comes to mind.

Why did my physics teacher show us that film?

Example 2 – Rural and Urban Life in England

Now, I would like you to perform two Google searches for images (just click the links below to see my search’s results).

Search 1: 17th Century rural England

Search 2: 19th Century Tenements

How do you feel when you see those two images? Where would you rather live? Why? This idea of sharing images for comparison was presented by Linda Hunter at the Teaching & Learning Innovations (TLI) Conference at the University of Guelph (2012). She used two images to help students immediately see the difference between two time periods. She also played examples of the music of the eras (the abstract of her presentation, Making Connections Across Disciplines: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Interpreting Art, Music and Film for Sociological Theory Applications,  is available on the TLI web site). While we might understand that it was crowded in London in the late 19th century, how quickly we might be able to appreciate just how different it was from rural life 200 years earlier. These images and the music served as an introduction to a lesson but could also become an assessment tool. By asking students to find images to represent that era then comparing the images through a written component, students are able to demonstrate their knowledge of the era while also reaching into the affective domain. Another option would be to have students create something to represent both eras, such as a piece of art, a photo, a video, or some other piece.

Example 3 – Durham City Baths

Finally, I’d like you to look at the images in this article, Adventures of a Serial Trespasser. In particular, check out Photo 20 then compare it to the photos on Rob Birrell’s photography blog – Durham City Baths. I can imagine asking students to review both photos in any number of disciplines. They could prompt a discussion in any number of disciplines, such as planning, recreation and leisure, sociology, fine arts, engineering, economics, or environment and resource studies. To encourage students to look beyond the simplistic view that it is an old building that’s falling apart, why not ask students to defend the city’s decision to abandon this facility in order to build a new recreation complex. Other questions could encourage students to consider diversity, societal impact, socio-economic factors, historical factors, political implications, etc.. A broad question, such as What factors might influence the city’s decision not to repair the existing facility?, could provide opportunities to assess whether students are even aware of these factors. In this case, media can be used to encourage students to take a broader view of the scenario beyond addressing only the knowledge pieces.





Do students know what good teaching is? — Dr. Mark Morton

Do students know what good teaching is?

That’s a question that often arises when I meet with instructors to explore ways of enhancing their teaching. It’s also a question that must occur to all instructors every time they review the results of their end-of-term course evaluations (no one, after all, gets perfect evaluations!).

The question might be restated this way: although students undoubtedly know what they like from an instructor, do they always know what they need?

The answer, I think, is that most of them do (but not all the time). I’ve reached this conclusion after reading through the submissions to this year’s Loving to Learn Day contest. That contest asked students (and others) to respond to this question: “What makes a teacher a really GREAT teacher?”

I received about 200 responses to this question from students ranging from grade three to undergraduates. All of the responses were genuinely thoughtful. Not a single one of the responses included glib or flippant statements such as “Teachers who end class early and give easy tests are great!”

More interesting, though, was the extent to which the students’ responses echoed the best practices for instructors that have been identified and articulated by experts in higher education. Chickering and Gamson’s “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education,” which was developed in 1987, is one such best-practices rubric. Here are those seven principles:

  1. Encourages contact between students and faculty.
  2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students.
  3. Uses active learning techniques.
  4. Gives prompt feedback.
  5. Emphasizes time on task.
  6. Communicates high expectations.
  7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

I seriously doubt whether any of the students who participated in the Loving to Learn Day contest have ever heard of Chickering and Gamson. Yet in the 200 responses that I received from them, each of those seven principles was articulated many times. In fact, it’s easy to recreate Chickering and Gamson’s best practices by extracting passages from the students’ responses:

  1. “I really like a teacher who is willing to spend extra time focusing, one on one with a student to benefit their learning. I think it is admirable when a teacher will go out of their way and uses their own time to help a student or to talk to them about personal issues.”
  2. “An awesome teacher is original, kind, fun, brave, courageous oh my I just could go on forever and they need to be wise, smart of course but they sometimes do not have to be smart because they and us kids learn better by learning together.”
  3. “My favourite teacher would be one that teaches subjects hands-on, and lets you try new things. They would let you experiment, and you wouldn’t have to do exactly what they do.”
  4. “Also, handing back marked work fast makes it easy for a student to find out what they need to fix for similar future work.”
  5. “A great teacher is one who sets clear due dates/objectives for homework/projects and makes sure not to hand out more than a student can handle.”
  6. “A great teacher sets high expectations and doesn’t give up on their students.”
  7. “All teachers should respect their student’s different learning styles and know how to bend their teaching routine to help the students learn in a way that is comfortable for them.”

Based on the 200 students’ responses, it seems to clear to me that students do know what they need from an instructor. They know, in other words, what makes an instructor a really GREAT instructor. At least some of the time.

The reason I add this qualifier – “some of the time” – is that these students obviously wrote their responses when they were actively and intently reflecting on the qualities of great instructors. They didn’t write them when they were in the middle of a dry biology lecture, nor did they write them as they were trying to study for two midterms on the same night. Ask them the same question in those circumstances, and the responses might start to include comments like “great teachers liven up the class with jokes” and “great teachers give easy midterms.”

In other words, what students’ think about the characteristics of a great teacher is probably shaped by the immediate circumstances of those students. In a similar way, my thoughts about food are influenced by my immediate circumstances. I do, for example, have a pretty good understanding of nutritional best practices – that is, I know what I need to eat and not eat to stay healthy. But if I’m stressed out or overly hungry, all that goes out the window. Best practices become a bag of chips or a chocolate bar.

This recognition of the role of context is important, I think, because it means that if we want to ensure that students understand what good teaching is, we don’t really need to teach it to them. They already know what makes a great teacher. Instead, we need to teach them coping skills or meta-cognitive skills so that they can keep an awareness of that knowledge in their minds when they are in less than ideal circumstances – like when they are in the middle of a dry lecture, or when they are tired or stressed out but still need to study for an exam.

So, if you’re an instructor, I think you can trust that your students, deep down, already know what makes an instructor great. If you want to bring that knowledge to the surface, just give them the time and opportunity, once in a while, to take a deep breath and reflect on what they really need from their instructors. And, while you’re at it, you might also ask them to reflect on what they need to do to become great learners.

Incidentally, here are more extracts that I’ve taken from the 200 responses that students submitted:

  • I enjoy teachers that don’t always stick to the teaching schedule. They wander off topic to enable further learning and understanding of a topic or lesson. They encourage their students to dig deeper and learn more.
  • Creativity is essential to teaching because it keeps learning fresh, and students open-minded. It’s easy for teachers to make students sit in rows, and give identical worksheets to students, but a great teacher can inspire learning, inspire creativity.
  • I think a great teacher should take the time and effort to remember important things about a student’s life.
  • What makes a teacher a great teacher is when they always know your level of intelligence so they know what work to give to you. They should challenge you, but not too much.
  • I think a good teacher is one that never lets you give up. They’re patient and happy, they tell you “You Can!” when you think you can’t. They are there for you, they let you take the time you need, and they help you all the way through.
  • The teacher should make learning seem fun and comfortable. Not necessarily easy, but it shouldn’t seem like the hardest thing ever.
  • Teachers need to keep an open mind. Students differ in everything from gender and race to personality and sexual orientation. If a teachers push stereotypes on them, they could cause a lot of stress.
  • To be a good teacher you have to believe that you are good at teaching.
  • A great teacher respects their students. They are free to think whatever they want.
  • For teachers to be great, they have to possess some key qualities; patience, kindness, a desire to learn, a love for their job, and a sense of humour.
  • Great teachers choose teaching because they thrive on helping students and they have a passion for learning.
  • Another thing that makes a really GREAT teacher is that they need to have appreciation for everything you do. If you help another student they should take that into account.
  • Teachers need to have a sense of humour. Humour can keep students engaged in their learning. Having a less serious side makes teachers more human and approachable.
  • A great teacher does what is best for the student, whatever that might be.
  • What makes a teacher REALLY great? To me, it’s a teacher with passion. When your teacher comes through that door in the morning to the moment they leave, they are excited to teach, they are excited to enrich our brains with knowledge.
  • A good teacher is always well prepared and organized. They are a master of their subject, and would make their instructions clear to all students.
  • A great teacher doesn’t force their ways upon you.
  • We need the kind of people who will recognize the students that try so hard just to get a C. Teachers that care. We don’t need great teachers. We need great people.
  • The best teacher is one that teaches you the harmony between everything good and bad. One who helps you grow as a human being.
  • In twenty years you might not recall that your math teacher explained fractions well. But you might remember that she brought in a pie to show you.
  • A great teacher needs to be willing to try new things. To try a different lesson, to try a different approach, and to take risks. They need to be willing to experiment, to have successes, to have failures, and to learn from their experiences.
  • A great teacher is someone who understands that each student has different strengths and weaknesses, and from there aims to help them reach their individual needs. They never focus on grade comparison, but rather on the progress a student is making.
  • A great teacher would have to be able to teach in different way, because not everyone learns the same as everyone else.
  • A great teacher never keeps knowledge to themselves. When they’ve learned something new from their experiences they make sure that their students are learning from them as well. For this reason I would describe every great teacher I’ve ever had as generous. They are people who are always willing to share their wisdom with others.
  • To me a teacher is someone that helps you discover and guides you toward your dream.

And if you want more, you can read all of the responses to “What makes a teacher a GREAT teacher?” at the Loving to Learn Day site.

Taking one for the team – Jane Holbrook

Slide1Last week CTE had our annual professional development day and Mary Power, Samar Mohamed and I facilitated a short exercise with our CTE staff on team-based learning that introduced our group to the use of IF-AT (Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique) cards. We simulated a typical team-based learning activity (where group work is a critical part of the learning process) by having our participants take a multiple-choice test individually and then as a group. Known as RATs (Readiness Assurance Tests), the individual test encourages students to prepare for class, through a reading or other homework, and assesses their level of understanding of the concepts  addressed  in that pre-class work.  A group of 5-7 students then take the same test again together, and in the process they discuss the questions and their answers and then come to a collective decision on the best answer to each question.  If they select a wrong answer the IF-AT cards will indicate that and they can discuss and answer the question again … and again until they are correct. By using the IF-AT cards the group gets immediate feedback on their answers, see IF-AT First You Don’t Succeed…. Mary Power’s blog post about an activity using  IF-AT cards  and students’ reactions to this activity in a Pharmacy class.

Our CTE teams were carefully handpicked for diversity (longstanding CTE staff and new people mixed together) and we assigned them tricky questions on a range of topics (copyright, Canadian history, a math-based brain teaser) hoping that we could prove a key point about this type of team-based activity – that the score of the group is always better than the same test taken by an individual, rather than being dependent on the knowledge of the most competent group member.  And even with our tricky questions this was true, people were learning from each other and not just being led by one strong group member. Larry Michaelsen, who has championed team-based learning for many years has tested group decision making in post-secondary courses and has found that when teams are engaged in “contextually relevant and consequential problem-solving” that the group will outperform the most competent individual (Michaelsen, Watson & Black, 1989).

Team-based learning activities using IF-AT cards are most effective when students are applying concepts to solve problems, analyze situations or data, or make diagnoses; when there may be many different approaches to answering the question but where there is one best, defensible answer.  Teams should be thoughtfully assembled to include students with diverse backgrounds or skill levels and ideally they work together for a whole term on a series of these activities. The activities can also be used as a springboard to deeper class discussions and/or a preamble to more in depth group projects. The groups in a class should be working on the same problems so that after the RAT is completed, the groups can share their reasoning and conclusions with each other. There’s an aspect of competitiveness in the activities too, with groups vying to do better than each other on the tests. Another important aspect of the RAT process is that groups can challenge the instructor on the correctness of an answer – and that was certainly what happened during our PD day (we’re a fairly argumentative bunch).

See   for more information on team-based learning and some convincing testimonials about its effectiveness in large classes. Instructors report higher attendance and participation levels in these classes and importantly students are engaged and motivated.

If you would like to try an activity like this in your class, we have a good supply of IF-AT cards at the Centre to get you started, so please be in touch!  Designing some team-based learning opportunities in your course can be a great way to flip some classes in your course too. See Course Design: Planning a Flipped Class.

Michaelsen, L. K., Watson, W. E. & Black, R. H. (1989). A realistic test of individual versus group consensus decision making. Journal of Applied Psychology. 74(5), 834-839.



The Power of Storytelling in Teaching- Zahra Razavi


Remembering the different components of the human body’s response to an infection was challenging to recall at first, especially when there were so many other similar responses to confuse it with. However, when the bacteria were thought of as intruders from another kingdom trying to take over the castle, the macrophages were thought of as guards who inform the king and queen of the intrusion, and the neutrophils were thought of as the kingdom’s army who defeat the intruders and saved the kingdom, remembering the response wasn’t as challenging.

 Story telling is a powerful learning tool. We have used stories as a way to convey information and to share experiences for centuries. Many of the important life lessons we were taught as children were told to us through stories and fairy tales. Stories can arouse emotions in the listener, motivate and inspire them.  The structure of a story can connect information together meaningfully and make the purpose of each piece of information clear. Stories also stimulate the listener to relate the new information being conveyed with their own previous experiences, which can greatly increase recall abilities and understanding of the new concept being presented. Instructors can see many positive effects from giving a lesson the structure of a story.  Although it may be challenging to create a story from simple facts, the positive outcome can make it well worth the effort.

 Seemingly unconnected data can be reshaped into something meaningful when given the structure of a story. Every lesson can benefit from a story structure. Giving a lesson a basic structure of having a situation laid out (a beginning), having a challenge presented (the middle), and reaching a new truth (the end), will give the information presented throughout the lesson significance, and will make the lesson much more memorable. Lectures in which the connections between the information being presented are not clear, and in which the significance of the data is not evident, are hard to understand, frustrating to listen to, and challenging to remember.  As a biology undergraduate student, I know that I have spent numerous occasions memorizing information which I could not see the relevance of, and I was most likely forget as soon as I was done writing my final exam.

 Our understanding of a concept can increase if the concept is presented in the context of a story, because a story context stimulates our minds to try to relate the new information to our own personal experiences. Using the structure of a story activates the areas in the brain that makes the story feel like the listener’s own idea and experience. The greater the amount of neural pathways we have to connect to a new concept, the easier it is to recall that concept and therefore make use of it.

 Even though it would be difficult to teach every lesson through storytelling, it would be vital to a lesson to have a story in it to grab the student’s attention and or to drive the most important part of the class home. Even if we can’t teach everything through accessing the imagination we can help the students remember the most imperative points of the lesson through storytelling.


Photo by Simply Shar♥n; retrieved from Creative Commons; license agreement

Standards, Judgments and the Finnstep – Veronica Brown

Until today, I had never heard of the Finnstep. Now, it is streaming across social media as yet another debate emerges on the subjectivity (and potential corruption) of judging figure skating. It’s rather a timely debate as I work my way through Eisner’s (1985) The Educational Imagination. Having skimmed the first few chapters (which deal with social factors that influence the curriculum, an assessment of the state of education at the time, and some curriculum basics), I have landed at Chapter 6, “Educational Aims Objectives, and Other Aspirations”. He begins with a nice overview of behavioural objectives, how best to define and use them, their merits, and their shortcomings.

I am see great value in behavioural objectives because they provide specificity, measurability and, one hopes, objectivity in assessment. Those behaviours are often tied to standards, which Eisner describes as “crisp, unambigous, and precise” (p. 116). They are best when you  know what the end product will look like. Consider swimming lessons. A swimmer must be able to fulfill all criteria for a given level (e.g., complete a front dive off a 1m board, swim front crawl 50m, swim back crawl 25m, tread water 1 minute, etc.) before moving to the next level. Swimming lessons exemplify a competency-based system based on well-defined standards. A swimmer does not move to the next level until all elements of the current level are completed. It is not a system where you can pass 60% of the elements and move on, you must pass everything or you re-do that level. The outcomes are very specific and the same standard is applied across all swimmers in that level. There is a little bit of room for judgment (e.g., the  quality of the front crawl might vary) but most elements are fairly objective (e.g., you can tread water for one minute or you can’t).

The reality, however, is that not everything is as clear as your success swimming across a pool. Eisner acknowledges there is a place for such behavioural objectives, but exposes the limitations of this approach. He asks,

But what about the rhetorical force of a students’ essay ? What about the aesthetic quality of her painting? What about the cogency of his verbal argumentation? What about her intellectual style, the ways she interprets the evidence in a  science experiment, the way in which historical material is analysed? Are these subject to standards? I think not.

But to say that such qualities cannot be measured by standards is not to say that judgments cannot  be made about them. It is not to say that one can have no criteria through which to appraise them. Judgments can say much about such qualities, not by the mechanical application of prespecified  standards, but by comparison of the qualities in question to a whole range of criteria that teachers or others making the judgment already possess. (p. 116)

This is the part that makes me nervous about assessing the affective domain. Before joining CTE, I was an instructional coordinator, managing very large classes. Leaving all this to “judgment” makes me nervous. Some of our courses had more than 40 markers. How could I be sure their judgment was the same? How could I minimize variance in that judgment? Can you really trust “judgment”? How many judging scandals have we heard about? Just how “fair” is judging? OK, I admit maybe I’m just in a slightly cynical mood having watched the Olympics all day only to hear tonight that people are talking about figure skating judges, again. Before worrying about these larger issues, let’s get back to the question of the day, how do we define outcomes related to the affective domain? Not to say behavioural objectives cannot be used in the affective domain, but I do think they are limited.

Eisner gives two alternatives to behavioural objectives, not to replace behaviour objectives but to complement them. First, he describes problem-solving objectives. One of the limitations of behavioural objectives he identifies is the need to know what the end product will be before students begin. But many of the questions we pose to our students do not have a single, clearly-defined answer. Instead, we ask them to solve a problem, with varying constraints. Even in the introductory programming course I taught, students solved the problems in different ways. My solution to the problem was not the only one and so I could not judge them based on whether they solved the problem my  way, I had to develop an evaluation scheme that provided for that flexibility. An example Eisner shares is that of an architect, who must meet the constraints provided by the client, such as budget, site, and architectural style, but the product cannot be fully assessed until it is completed. He explains that, “what is known is the problem; what constitute appropriate solutions remains to be seen after the work has been done” (p. 119). Those constraints can help to form the criteria against which the solution is evaluated but there is no single solution to the problem.

The second alternative is expressive outcomes. Something I missed as I read the earlier part of the chapter was that he used the terms “behavioural objectives” and “problem-solving objectives” but calls these “expressive outcomes“. I tend to use the two interchangeably but he’s sees a clear distinction. Objectives represent the goals we have for our students, which lead to activities. For example, we might have a goal of evaluating students’ ability to analyse a budget, which leads to an activity in which we present a case study and ask them to analyse someone’s budget. But for expressive outcomes, we begin with the activity and the outcome is

essentially what one ends up with, intended or not, after some form of engagement. Expressive outcomes are the consequences of curriculum activities that are intentionally planned to provide a fertile field for personal purposing and experience. (p. 120)

I have read this chapter several times but it is only now that I realized my error. I didn’t pick up this subtle difference because I use objectives and outcomes with the same meaning. But what is truly different about expressive outcomes is that it is the activity that we plan, not the outcome. As an educator, I cannot foresee all the outcomes that activity might yield but I might have the sense that it has value. We trust that while each student might have a different experience, participation in the activity will have value. To achieve such an outcome, Eisner recommends we “have students engage in activities that are sufficiently rich to allow for a wide, productive range of educationally valuable outcomes” (p. 121).

I like this idea of planning the activity and allowing the outcome to come forth. But I am still uneasy. At the end of the day, I have to give my students a grade. How can I assess students who have a different outcome based on that experience. Is one outcome better than another? What is the criteria against which I judge this experience? How can I be assured that a panel of judges (or the 40 people marking the assignment) will yield the same result? Thankfully, we are not starting from scratch. There are many valuable tools that can help us to evaluate these experiences, experiences that I think are critical to the development of elements in the affective domain.


Eisner, E. (1985). The Educational imagination : On the design and evaluation of school programs (2nd ed.). New York: Macmillan.

Lake and rocky islands



Begin with the end in mind – Veronica Brown

After writing the title, I could not for the life of me remember where that was from. So I Googled it. Turns out it’s Habit 2 from Stephen Covey’s (2004) 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Don’t worry, I’m not going to write a blog on Covey. But his premise of having a clear direction to take makes sense with our ultimate goal of measuring the affective domain. It’s why I keep coming back to outcomes. If we want to develop certain characteristics in our students or at least encourage a different viewpoint, it is really important to be able to define those characteristics in measurable ways.

Continuing with Krathwohl, Bloom and Masia (1964) from last week, one approach to writing affective outcomes is to consider the outcome as it passes through the various levels from receiving to internalizing. Consider an outcome related to conflict and power. Depending on the level, the outcome might take one of these forms.

  • Be aware of the different power relationships that exist  (Receiving) (NB – This is different than a cognitive outcome that might expect the student to be able to list various sources of power, such as positional or identity)
  • Demonstrate the use of a specific source of power in a given contextual setting (Valuing)
  • Defend the use use of a specific source of power in a given contextual setting (Organization – unlike Valuing, this higher level expects students to compare or synthesize the value, similar to analysis in the cognitive domain)

These examples demonstrate how the same construct can be defined at different learning levels. In lots of ways, the hierarchy makes sense as each level forms a building block for the next step. But this structured approach to defining (and then evaluating) affective outcomes is not without criticism. A concern that I sometimes hear related to defining outcomes is the loss of opportunity for students to find their own way. If we are too prescriptive, do we squash learning opportunities? There are many examples where these behavioural outcomes (i.e., specific, observable, measurable behaviours) makes sense, particularly in some of the lower levels (i.e, receiving, responding, and valuing). But what happens as you move into areas when these “behaviours” cannot be measured or, at least, cannot be measured in a consistent, valid way. For example, how would you evaluate a how a student values critical thinking or demonstrates behaviours related to ethics, diversity, humility, etc.?

While measuring these higher-level elements of the affective domain can be difficult, there might be associated behaviours that are observable. The design of the outcome, known as an expressive outcome, helps us describe or define the learning that might occur through experience, situations, and reflection. My blog next week will explore the work of Elliot Eisner (1985), who describes expressive outcomes as “the consequences of curriculum activities that are intentionally planned to provide a fertile field for personal purposing and experience” (p. 120). He continues by expressing that

it is perfectly appropriate for teachers and others involved in curriculum development to plan activities that have no explicit or precise objectives. In an age of accountability, this sounds like heresy. Yet surely there must be room in school for activities that promise to be fruitful, even though the teacher might not be able to say what specifically the students will learn or experience. (p. 121)

Food for thought.


Tree growing in rock


Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (Nov. 2013 edition). New York: Simon & Schuster.

Eisner, E. (1985). The Educational imagination : On the design and evaluation of school programs (2nd ed.). New York: Macmillan.

Krathwol, D. R., Bloom, B. S., & Masia, B. B. (1964). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals. New York: David McKay.


Teaching: It’s not about technology – Brett Beston


Much of my work-life is spent teaching: If I’m not lecturing myself, I’m helping others achieve teaching their teaching goals. However, I don’t consider myself to be an expert on the subject, just a ‘student of the game’. I spend a fair amount of time thinking about what I can do to keep the attention of my students. Sometimes, I’m not assuccessful as I’d like to be, so I keep thinking of what to do next.

In the current teaching climate, I hear a lot of talk about integrating technology in the classroom. This works out well for me because I like to ‘tinker’ and it’s all too easy for me to think about the different ways to play with technology in the classroom. As teachers, we often use technology as learning management systems to organize our courses, post lecture slides, create web-modules, hold discussion forums, and even poll students in our classes.

But the more I teach, the more I realize that a great teaching experience need not have anything to do with technology.

Technology is a tool that can be used to enhance a classroom experience, but shouldn’t be the focus of our teaching. No smart boards, iclickers or projectors will make us good teachers. What limits my performance in the classroom is the quality of my instruction.

So, I’m going back to my teaching-roots. When I started teaching, my mentor, Dale Roy, asked me to identify effective things that instructors do in the classroom. Not once did I think of anything related to technology. Instead, the most effective instructors that I’ve experienced seem to entertain as much as they inform.

Now, I don’t mean to imply that our lectures should be a circus act kind of entertainment. But, the best teachers that I’ve had go beyond simply doling out facts. Rather, they take a more personal approach to tell stories and experiences that provide context to the subject matter at hand. We are often experts in the area that we teach; why not share our own experience to make a subject matter more personal and create real world context that students connect with.

So I’m shifting my focus away from technology and towards an approach that shows my passion for what I’m teaching about and the experiences that I’ve had: To show them how I connect with the material that they are learning about.

I forget who said this to me, but I’ll always remember this little saying: “It’s not about the tech, it’s about the teach”.