Principles and Practices

of Effective Teaching


George J. North, Jr.

EDCI 6758, Fall 1998
Dr. Michael Paulsen
December 9, 1998

Principles and Practicesof Effective Teaching

I feel fortunate this year to be teaching a college level course for the first time, and also to

be learning about college teaching. This satisfied my need to be both student and teacher, which I

now realize was always present in my many different careers as a learner. As I begin to appreciate

and understand the importance of pedagogical content knowledge, not only do I become a more

effective teacher, I am also a better student. One of the great benefits and privileges of teaching is

the dual role of educator - learner. Learners also have dual roles of student and teacher. One

effective teaching strategy is to setup learning environments where the dual role of educator and the

dual role of student happen. When successful, a space is created, where the needed social,

motivational and cognitive strategies so important to teaching and learning, can live together. Mike,

you built that space for our class. I hope I learned enough to build my own learning environments.

Learning is a natural human event--we are learning machines. Whereas, teaching is a

heuristic. In other words, our world of education is fortunate in that no matter what we do,

learning takes place. Of course, it is the job of educators to provide a program of instruction of a

specified kind or level--our responsibility is to guide the learning taking place. I am reminded of a

story that Dr. Elliott told during my education philosophy class. Briefly, in a north-eastern state, an

experienced teacher of ethnically different students, in a class of 32 first graders, not one student

was promoted to second grade. Clearly, this was not a problem of learning, but of teaching--a

problem of social strategies and learning styles. There exists no manual from which we can learn to

teach. But, because of the purposeful nature of the role of educator, there are theories that guide

us, and skills such as style and manner of speaking, questioning, responding and leading

discussions that enhance effectiveness. It is also important to recognize that students carry with

them different learning styles, different stages of learning, and learning cycles. The needs of

students also differ by age, gender, ethnicity, life style, and ... what ever. The best way to teach

may be to recognize that there is no one best way ... teaching is a heuristic.

EDCI 4993, Section 601, Fall 1998: Computers in Education

The fall of 1998 marks the first chance for me to teach, on my own, a college level course.

This represented a remarkable opportunity. Not only was I the teacher, I was also the course

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designer. I came back to school five years ago to do exactly whatI now had the chance to do --

teach teacher about information networks.

I have extensive knowledge of half the content for my class--computers. My background is

thirty years experience in computer scientist, a B.S. in Liberal Arts and a M.S. in computer

science. I am a lifelong student. My experience in the other half of the class is less dramatic. I am

in my third year of a Ph.D. program in curriculum and instruction. Other than teaching workshop

style courses in computer literacy, my only other experience as a teacher was as an assistant in two

previous college classes. I have little formal background as an educator. I did recently complete a

course in college curricula.

Of the 24 students in this class, all were education majors except one male matriculating

businessman. There were 15 females, 9 males, 16 Caucasians, 3 American, 3 Asian-Americans, 3

Africian-Americans, 2 Latino, and 1 other. Two were undergraduates, 22 graduates. All students

were over 25 years old, three with more then 20 years experience teaching.Three male students

were already experienced computer users (experts), the rest were evenly split between

inexperienced or no experience (fearful of computers). I think this describes a class of non-

traditional adult learners (Merrian, 1991). One student dropped after the first class meeting, and

was not counted in the above. This demographic information was gathered as part of a small-scale

research study that is described later in this paper.

The class met weekly in a classroom equipped with computers with access to the internet.

Each student had exclusive use of a computer for the entire class period. These networked

computers facilitated sharing of student work and group activities. The description of the course

was provided on the first day of class. A brief summary follows:

This course is intended to help educators become as comfortable with
"Computers in Education" as they are with books and blackboards. The truth
actually is that computers are no longer the issue. Computers just happen to be the
first tools that provide easy access to global Information Networks. Information
Networks: provide educators with access to abundant resources; provide students
with new ways to participate in knowledge creation; provide simultaneous access to
information and publishing; bring us closer to the goal of universal education;
empower students, decreasing the roll of teachers as purveyors of knowledge; make
teachers and students partners in learning; join together teachers, students, parents,
and community members; build Communities of Learners in a single location (the
classroom); join learning scenarios with abundant resources.

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