TITLE: A Lesson about Learning from a Self-Aware Teacher AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: February 20, 2013 3:32 PM DESC: ----- BODY: In a reminiscence on his experience as a student, John Cook writes:
I enjoyed learning about it as a student and I enjoyed teaching it later. (Or more accurately, I enjoyed being exposed to it as a student and really learning it later when I had to teach it.)
It is a commonplace for anyone who has taught that we learn a lot more about any topic when we teach it -- even a topic in which we are acknowledged experts. Between organizing material for instruction and interacting with people as they learn, we learn an awful lot ourselves. There is, however, a hidden gem in John's comment that is not so commonly talked about: "I enjoyed being exposed to it as a student...". As teachers, we do well to remember that our students aren't really learning something when they take our courses, especially when the course is their first encounter with the material. We are merely exposing them to the topic, giving them the lay of the land and a little vocabulary. The course is an opportunity to engage with the material, perhaps again. If we don't keep this in mind, we may deceive ourselves with unrealistic expectations about what students will know and be able to do at the end of the course. A second advantage of remembering this truth is that we may be on guard to create opportunities to deepen their exposure, through homework and projects and readings that pull them in. It is through our students' own efforts that learning takes place, and that our courses succeed. -----