Dean's Message

What is Good Teaching and Learning?

A common experience of childhood is experience with teachers, classrooms and schools. Nearly all of us have stories of the educational experiences of our childhood, sometimes wonderful, other times painful, but something we have as a common part of life. While galvanizing, the power of our own educational experiences shape our view of what we consider good and bad education. Our favorite teachers and how they managed a classroom are often translated into what we perceive as high-quality instruction. 

One of the great challenges for a school of education is helping future educators take advantage of, and go beyond their own educational experiences. Consider this - most teachers’ instruction mimics how they were taught, regardless of whether that was good or bad teaching practice. Research tells us three things that truly matter in the preparation of educators.  

1.     People tend to maintain their prior beliefs, even in the face of contradictory evidence. 

2.     Learning science tells us that good teaching does three things: (1) engages people’s prior knowledge; (2) scaffolds the acquisition of new knowledge; (3) engages the learner in metacognitive activity (or having someone identify what they know and don’t know). 

3.     Teaching is a social practice, where the same teaching approach done in different settings has different results. 

In the School of Education, we have been working on a major update of our teacher education curriculum. Our new curriculum highlights the emerging science of learning that includes the three points above.

Good teaching encompasses the prior knowledge of our students, truly scaffolds new knowledge acquisition, encourages metacognition, and recognizes the complexity of teaching in different settings. These are central components of the skills that new educators must master.

The science of learning, and by extension, new curriculum, paired with challenging pre-conceived ideas is what makes up good teaching. I share this with you in the hopes that, when presented with new approaches based in evidence, students will be challenged to go beyond their prior beliefs and practices about what is good education. 

If we take the science of learning seriously, we are all challenged to reflect accurately and appreciate our childhood education experiences, but also consider how we might go beyond our own experiences and embrace new approaches that will truly advance educational practices. That is our School challenge, and we share it with you.