Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Still here...

How ironic that teaching diverted the attention I was going to put into my teaching blog. Classes are over and my final exam is on Saturday afternoon.

Yesterday afternoon I attended a "LEAD Meeting", one of 8 sessions organized by the Vice President Academic (in charge of education at UBC) to find out what faculty think should be doe to improve education. He's hoping to get short-term funding for what appears to be a pedagogical 'surge', and wants us to tell him what needs to be done. That is, he wants to invest as-yet-unidentified resources into interventions that will produce a long-term and stable improvement in teaching (and learning) at UBC without requiring any increase in long-term funding.

LEAD stands for Lasting Education, Achieved and Demonstrated; apparently they spent a lot of time coming up with this. Here's what I suppose is the mission statement:
"A central goal to the UBC LEAD initiative is to enable faculty members to create and maintain a rewarding teaching and learning experience. Through a series of LEAD Meetings involving more than 300 UBC faculty members, we seek to learn from our experienced educators the building blocks of a lasting education, and how the university community could further empower and enrich these experiences."
Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) all we came up with was platitudes like "Encourage creative thinking", "Prepare students for the future", and "We need to learn how to change learning as well as teaching". The leaders seemed very happy with this, and I gather that the previous groups did the same.

I don't know why the people behind this initiative decided to waste our time with such poorly informed and undirected meetings. It was a bit like asking a gathering of philosophers how they thought the universe ought to work, based on their day-to-day experiences with reality. There's a lot of data out there on how learning works and how teaching can be improved, and one of its major themes is that we instructors can't trust our intuitions and feelings.

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