I completed my undergraduate studies almost a decade ago. I would summarise my undergraduate experience as ‘Lecturers provide information from which students then go away and learn’ (Knewstubb, B and Bond, C 2009). At least, that is what I did. I would try to arrive early for the lecture to get a front seat (as I am short sighted), even though I never rose up my hand to ask or answer questions. I spent all my energy writing notes. I had no time to understand the content of the lecture whilst in class, thus I would go home and try to revise the lecture notes later on my own.
It is from the foregoing background that when I entered the lecture and tutorial rooms as the ‘new lecturer in town,’ I placed the same expectations on myself as I had placed on my lecturers. I, too, would be the students’ key source of information and knowledge. My expectations of the students were, however, surprising. Although I wanted them to hang onto all my words and take down notes, I also expected the students to show up on time for my sessions, listen, and then go home and continue with the learning process. The fundamental difference here was that, I wanted my students to learn both during and after the teaching session.
As I look back on my learning experiences particularly at the undergraduate level, I think the learning could have been more engaging. Yes, I turned out alright! I did well in my undergraduate studies and won academic awards, however, I still sensed that something was not right - that both jotting down notes and learning the content should have occurred in the lecture or tutorial. I wanted my students to learn in the lecture or tutorial or practical. Unlike myself, I definitely wanted and expected my students to answer my questions in the lectures and tutorials. I felt that asking questions was one of the easiest ways to judge whether I was conveying the content and whether they understood it. Indeed, I distinctly remember that I dreaded being picked upon to answer questions in my undergraduate years not only because I was an introvert but mainly because I often did not understand the lecture. I wanted my students to understand the content of my lectures/tutorials.
The concept of teaching has also definitely changed over the course of time. Teacher centred learning, in which the teacher is the focus of knowledge (as in my undergraduate days) has evolved to a more complex type of learning which is learner centred (Bailey,P.D 2008), where the needs and styles of the learner are constantly evaluated and the teaching is moulded to suit the learners. I had some vague ideas on what could make my students’ undergraduate experience different from mine and hopefully better than mine. Although the changes I proposed were self directed, I was aware that it was not going to be a smooth journey (Valli,L and Buese, D 2007)
Collectively, this is the reflection of my journey as a new teacher.