I’m a firm believer that a calendar year cannot be concluded without a slew of top 10 lists. Even Faculty Focus, an online website and e-newsletter dedicated to teaching in higher education, recently succumbed to the temptation of a top 10 of 2010. The two-part article entitled “Top 10 Faculty Focus Articles for 2010” was compiled from over 250 articles published over the past 12 months and provides some informative and practical insights. My personal favourite, coming in at number 4 on the list, is a top 10 within a top 10; it’s like a Russian nesting doll of top 10 lists! The piece, originally published in The Teaching Professor, is called “Good Teaching: The Top 10 Requirements” which, as the name states, contains a list of the top 10 requirements of solid pedagogy according to York University’s Dr. Richard Leblanc. These “10 commandments” decree that good teaching is all about:
One. Passion and motivation.
Two. Expertise and immersing oneself wholly in their field.
Three. Listening, questioning and respecting others.
Four. Experimentation and adaptation.
Five. Style, entertainment and dynamism.
Six. Humour and the ability to make jokes at your own expense.
Seven. Being available, caring and nurturing.
Eight. Strength and leadership.
Nine. Teamwork, training and mentoring between senior and junior faculty.
Ten. Fun and pleasure.
Upon glancing at this list, one thing is clear: effective teaching is just as much about style and personality as it is about knowledge and expertise. Leblanc even goes as far as to single out number 6 as a particularly important requirement for good teaching, stressing the importance of being able to laugh and poke fun at oneself, sometimes as a means of breaking the ice and at other times to demonstrate that you are also a human being with inherent shortcomings. What is also clear from this list is that the intellectual yet boring teacher who robotically drones on in front of a class is just as ineffective as the entertaining teacher who masks a lack of expertise and knowledge with anecdotes and humour.
And so, I encourage you all to ask yourself, how many of these requirements do you feel you truly meet? Are you a leader who can also poke fun at yourself? Are you an expert in your field, yet caring and nurturing enough to assist those who are less knowledgeable? Nevertheless, don’t sweat it if you’re lacking in one of these departments. After all, isn’t that what New Year’s resolutions are for?
Michael Pyne is a TA Developer in the Centre for Teaching Excellence.
The Centre for Teaching Excellence welcomes contributions to its blog. If you are a faculty member, staff member, or student at the University of Waterloo (or beyond!) and would like contribute a posting about some aspect of teaching or learning, please contact Mark Morton or Trevor Holmes.