Teaching Starts with the Learner...
This is a simple statement, yet a weighty concept to apply to the process of education--particularly higher education. Often, the act of teaching is mired in issues ranging from traditional vs. alternative environments and pedagogy, to faculty compensation and academic freedom. While these issues are important components of the dynamics of higher education, it is my belief that they must not be allowed overshadow the connection between student, teacher and content.
Currently, the pace of innovations in technology tends to dominate conversations (or debates) concerning all of the issues mentioned above. While technology does influence educational environments, pedagogy, compensation and academic freedom, unfortunately, most of the weekly conversations I participate in center around how faculty are affected by these changing trends, with little mention of their affects on students.
It is my belief that if these discussions, and the actions that follow, begin with students, then faculty, staff and higher education as a whole will benefit. For, if students are learning (as evidenced by successful, measured outcomes), then they will demonstrate which environments and methods best foster that learning. If students are feeling positively about their learning experience, they will demand that their legislators adequately fund their educational institutions. This will then make it clear that educators are valuable and must be duly compensated.
Finally, concerning academic freedom, in my view, it is important that educators have the right to freedom in selecting content and a point-of-view from which to present that content; however, that freedom does not invite a right to ignore the learning needs of their students. There is too often a gap between the methods by which faculty members choose to present content (based on what faculty are most comfortable in doing) and the methods that would best facilitate students' interactions with that content and, thus, their learning.
This is the gap that is filled through cooperation between the Instructional Designer and the Faculty Subject Matter Expert.
A summation of my philosophy would be this:
Teaching must start with the learner. It is vital that educators embrace the need to consider how learners will best engage particular content, how learning styles affect that engagement, and how students' needs for interaction have increased over time. If educators center their focus in the learner, educators' needs for information, compensation and freedom will flow naturally on the wake of student success.