Sunday, September 13, 2009

Teaching...where I am and where to from here?

Another thing I have been asked to do for the Learner Centred Learning course I am taking is to reflect on my own teaching context. We spend a lot of time considering the students' context but often do not take time out to think about our own context and how that can affect our teaching, and ultimately the learning experience of students.

Where I am today
This is a timely activity for me because I am at a bit of a cross road as far as my teaching career is concerned. I am no longer employed full time by one educational institution. Indeed, I am doing very little direct teaching at the moment other than facilitating the Facilitation Online course, which I am contracted to work 50 hours until November.

I have made a decision this year that I do not want to teach undergraduate midwifery students any more. After 10 years I am ready to take on other challenges. What I am really interested in is professional development, facilitating and supporting life-long learning in a wider sense.

Being a self-employed consultant
It looks as if I am heading toward being a self-employed consultant or education contractor, although the next few months will tell if that is a viable plan for me. The advantage of being self-employed is that I am not tied to institutional educational policies and procedures that I have a philosophical objection to - I can pick and choose what I want to teach and the environment I teach in. On the other hand I may be out of work for periods of time, and my long term career may suffer, especially if I want to be an academic researcher...but then again, I'm not sure that that is what I want to do in the long run.

Systems approach
Using a systems approach, here is a look at the environment I currently work in.

Where does the learner sit in relation to this?
At a local and national level in New Zealand, one of the main impacts on students is access (or lack of) to resources...access to decent Internet bandwidth...and access to flexible courses that suit needs of life style and so on.

At a wider level, the desire and drive of educators and educational institutions to communicate and collaboration, share and research will either open up many doors to learners or restrict all opportunities to just their local area. This is one of the reasons I endorse the open education resources movement - the more we are willing to open up our resources and courses, the more resources learners have access to and opportunities for flexible learning.

How does awareness of this knowledge impact upon creating a learner centred environment for the students/learners that you work with?
The main things this makes me think of how I overcome barriers of technology and access. Here's a couple of previous posts that discuss this.
Where are issues of gender, race and diversity placed in your consideration of your context?
The main issue is how people of different ethnicities, especially in the international context, are able to access the Internet and thus the opportunities of accessing educational resources and joining communities of learning. Here are a couple of posts that consider this further.
How are you going to use this information to create positive, challenging and supported learning environments?
To my mind, it keeps coming back to openness and flexibility in terms of myself and my teaching. This is not easy to achieve when you're working in educational institutions that do not support these approaches to education. However, by continuing to model, network with like-minded educators, develop, reflect, experiment and push boundaries, and strive to improve my teaching I hope to create as as supportive learning environment as I possibly can for students.

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