This past week I went to a workshop put on by the teaching centre here at Uni. I'm signed up for another - long - one this week. I also go to monthly lunches because I'm part of a year-long program that the centre runs.
I don't know why I continue to invest energy into the formal discourse of teaching and learning at universities. Well, I do it because I really care about teaching, and I keep hoping there is going to be something meaningful to me in any of these workshops and events. But it really is becoming clear to me that ways I - and many of us in the humanities - are thinking about teaching, has very little to do with the approaches in this little "teaching and learning in higher education" world. You know, for starters it's the lingo - using the term "feed forward" instead of feedback is a prime example.
In fact, at this last workshop (attended by just four of us, plus the facilitator) it really seemed to me that a lot of what is being talked about is teaching as administering a kind of therapy. And it is not coincidental, I think, that the people at many of these workshops, who are engaging this rhetoric, were nursing and education faculty. (Not that these are lesser disciplines, of course, just that I think it makes sense that there would be different approaches in these fields from the ones we might use in the humanities.) And that these folks are also often talking about inculcating a kind of morality - my goodness, at this last workshop, one of them talked about how she assigns "making a shoebox of gifts for Xmas and giving it to a local charity" as a project!? Uh, how does that work??
I actually really felt like an outsider at this last workshop, and I think a couple of the things I said about my approaches to evaluation were really scandalous to the people there...I got that vibe. And I'm not saying this in any kind of "poor-me" way; I really don't care. Because frankly, it seems to me that any kind of intellectual rigor is being sacrificed in much of this discourse, and that it's just about feel-good...stuff. As well, I find that some of this talk shades uncomfortably into a kind of instrumentalization that dovetails with the commercialization of the university - terms like "value-added" and "leveraging" get tossed around a little too often for my liking.
So, yeah, not feeling satisfied with that world, not at all. Every time I go to a workshop, I come away feeling disappointed. But I still feel as if I need people to work through some teaching stuff with. People in my own kinds of fields, who are facing some of the same pedagogical issues that I am, who have similar kinds of visions of what a classroom can be. And who are not interested in infantilizing university students, nor in producing good little workers!