book cover of What Teaching Looks Like
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ISBN: 978-1-951414-07-8

June 2022

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ISBN: 978-1-951414-06-1

July 2022

By and large, widely available photographic images portraying postsecondary educational settings have been carefully constructed to represent an idealized conception of teaching and learning—one where students are attentive, spaces are neat and tidy, and teachers are professorial. While these images may serve specific marketing purposes, when they become the only or main picture of higher education, they can also reinforce unrealistic, unhelpful, and culturally biased standards, and omit the beauty and immediacy of actual learning. This chapter’s images—in which the sometimes-messy work of teaching and learning is in focus—make the case for the power and importance of allowing the chaos of teaching to become part of our collective representation of higher education. Unless we broaden our views of what happens at colleges and universities to include such images, as well as the often-hidden facets of the work of faculty and instructors, we continue to propagate outdated expectations and shortchange the importance of higher education.

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Discussion Questions

Questions for faculty and teaching assistants

  • Do you have any previously unstated beliefs about how orderly or messy teaching and learning should be? What are they, and how do you think these beliefs might influence your approach to teaching?
  • Recall a time when your own teaching seemed especially effective, productive, or full of discovery. When you picture your physical surroundings at that time, both preparing for and carrying out your teaching plans, how neat or chaotic were they?
  • To what extent do the images that portray teaching and learning in your institution embrace or hide any of the untidy aspects of teaching? In what ways are those representations helpful or unhelpful?

Questions for instructional, academic, and faculty developers

  • When might instructors and/or students need more order and organization? Are there times when encouraging instructors to explore some degree of chaos or disorder in teaching could be helpful? Why?
  • How might you highlight aspects of teaching that could be considered beautiful? What might the benefits be for instructors and institutions if there were greater recognition of the ways in which teaching and learning can be exquisite?

Questions for other staff and administrators

  • The above questions also apply to the work of staff and administrators. Consider the questions here applied to your work in postsecondary education, which may or may not overlap with teaching and learning.