Teaching the Teacher

Chapter 36
Teaching the Teacher

Ayona Silva-Fletcher

The LIVE Centre, Royal Veterinary College, UK

Introduction: Brave Beginnings

Teaching the teachers is not a new phenomenon. The first training colleges for training primary school teachers in the United Kingdom and United States were set up in the first half of the nineteenth century. This was a period when teachers were revered and the concept that teachers should be trained was unthinkable. Following on from such brave beginnings, the training of teachers then spread to training teachers at secondary level, college level, and in higher education. See Box 36.2 for some important landmarks.

A report commissioned by the UK Higher Education Academy on “Teaching and Learning in the Disciplines” concluded that “Students’ difficulties with self-directed, independent learning activity and other learning skills associated with success in higher education, [are] often linked in academics’ minds to inadequacies in the preparation for undergraduate programs provided by school- and college-level study” (Bulman, 2015, p. 4).

This suggests that undergraduate students do not have the study skills expected by their teachers in higher education. The blame is laid with school- and college-level teachers, suggesting that they are not preparing school/college leavers with the necessary study skills for higher education. Despite this century-old tradition of teaching the teachers, it appears that most secondary school teachers are still not teaching students “how to learn.” Their knowledge of teaching may be exemplary, but their understanding of learning may be limited. It is not known what factors prevent secondary school teachers from teaching these learning skills. In the following veterinary example, it is demonstrated that teachers are interested in learning about teaching. A survey that included 565 individual teachers from 49 veterinary teaching institutes in the United States has shown that 30% of the teachers have a high interest in learning more about topics related to teaching and the curriculum. Only 12% indicated that they have no interest or that learning more about teaching is not applicable to their role, and 58% of the teachers indicated a low to moderate interest in learning about teaching (Haden et al., 2010).

Today there is a global trend to teach the teachers in higher education. In some countries it is a national legal requirement for teachers in universities to be qualified to teach. This applies to all higher education teachers in Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, Norway, Sri Lanka, and Switzerland. Some countries such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Japan, Thailand, Ireland, and Australia have national frameworks and minimum standards for teachers in higher education, but a teaching qualification is not compulsory. There is no national mandate for higher education teacher training in the United States, except that graduate teaching staff must receive a minimum of one day’s training. In countries such as Germany and Switzerland, a teaching qualification is mandatory for medical faculties and universities of applied sciences. In some countries there are institutional policies that stipulate teaching qualifications as probationary requirements and for further promotions (Parsons et al., 2012; O’Connor and Wisdom, 2014). There are several textbooks and reviews written on the subject of the impact of training on higher education teachers’ classroom practice, beliefs, knowledge, and thinking, and on their students. In general, there is evidence that teaching the teachers has an impact on teachers’ conceptions of teaching and practice, but evidence of the impact on student learning is in its infancy. See Table 36.1 for details of the relevant literature for further information.

Table 36.1 Literature on the changes, impact, and evaluation of teaching the teachers in higher education

Reference Overview Conclusion
Weimer and Lenze (1991) A review of literature on the effectiveness of five common instructional interventions: workshops, one-to-one instructional consultations, teaching grants for improving teaching, peer assistance, and providing resource materials as instructional interventions. The overall effectiveness of individual instructional interventions showed that one-to-one instructional consultations are the most effective. The workshops were somewhat effective, and the other three methods may be effective and/or need more research.
Hativa and Goodyear (2002) An excellent book that reviews concepts of teaching, development of concepts by individual teachers, comparison between novice and award-winning teachers, studies on teaching expertise, and how refection benefits teaching. There are links between student learning and teachers’ thinking, beliefs, knowledge, and classroom practice. Critically appraised evidence shows that instruction on pedagogy can make a difference.
Coffey and Gibbs (2000) A study spanning 9 universities and 72 teachers trained on teaching. Evaluation was based on 302 responses via the SEEQ (Student Evaluation of Educational Quality) tool. All teachers showed improvement in some aspects of teaching after one semester of training.
Gibbs and Coffey (2004) A study spanning 19 universities in 8 countries that offered training of at least 60 hours’ duration (the longest being about 300 hours). These programs usually had an element of formal assessment. Two control groups of teachers who had no training were used in the study. The tools used to evaluate the training were SEEQ and ATI (Approaches to Teaching Inventory). There were three main conclusions. Training can: • increase the extent to which teachers adopt a student focus (as measured by the ATI) • improve a number of aspects of teachers’ teaching (as judged by students) • change teachers such that their students improved their learning.
Steinert and Mann (2006) A review of 53 papers on faculty development initiatives that aimed to improve teaching effectiveness in clinical and basic science teachers within medical education. The majority of the interventions targeted practicing clinicians. All reports focused on teaching improvement via interventions including workshops, seminar series, short courses, longitudinal programs, and “other interventions.” These activities were highly valued by the participants, who also reported changes in learning and behavior.
Parsons et al. (2012) A review of the impact of teacher development in higher education via 312 published sources with relevant criteria. The authors concluded that the review shows a “growing and diverse evidence base, with some positive indications of impacts from programs, but with (as yet) a fragmented evidence base to draw on to inform future policy and improvements.”
Chalmers and Gardiner (2015) Review of research and literature to identify the impact and effectiveness of teacher development programs and activities. The study proposed a framework for the systematic measurement and collection of information on the effectiveness of these programs. There is a need to move from a research paradigm to an evaluation paradigm. The measures and indicators can then be used to inform ongoing and future teacher development programs and enhancement. The proposed framework has been used in Australia and Chile.

Discipline-Specific versus Generic Training

There is a growing emphasis on training university teachers using discipline-based approaches in the medical sector, where medical education has become an academic discipline in its own right (Swanwick, 2010). Veterinary education and faculty development have traditionally adapted discipline-specific, pedagogical (related to the way of teaching) advances in medical education to enhance the teaching and learning practices of its own professionals. Although there are similarities in discipline-specific teaching and learning issues between medical and veterinary education, a number of differences exist, including the nature of the clinical teaching and skills to be mastered by graduates in the veterinary sector. Teaching is often conducted around animals, in teaching hospitals, in veterinary practices, in barns, stables, and fields, with clients and farmers acting as “animal restrainers.”

This means that the safety of the patient, client, and student becomes a critical consideration for the teacher. This has led to the suggestion that “in tandem with evidence drawn from the medical education literature, context-specific faculty development initiatives could potentially be of real benefit to both veterinary educators and their students” (Bell, 2013, p. 99).

Each discipline has its own way of teaching, which may have been developed over decades (or centuries) based on the experiences of teaching in that discipline (Shulman, 1986). For example, in teaching veterinary anatomy, a variety of different discipline-specific teaching approaches are taken, such as using dissections of different species, anatomy atlases, museum pots, and so on. Although contextualizing to veterinary-related disciplines is important, it is equally valuable to critically explore the generic versus discipline-based approaches in teaching the teacher for the twenty-first century. The training of veterinary teachers using solely discipline-specific approaches is still at an early stage, and there is no conclusive evidence on whether discipline specific is more effective than generic. More long-term evaluation studies are necessary to confirm whether discipline-specific teacher training is beneficial to the veterinary teacher.

In this chapter, the veterinary teacher is defined as someone who teaches in many environments that offer learning opportunities for students in the veterinary and paraveterinary sectors. Students in paraveterinary sectors can include, but are not limited to, those studying to be veterinary nurses, veterinary technicians, and farm or other animal managers. The teachers can be teaching in academic institutions, veterinary teaching hospitals, general and specialist veterinary practices, industry, animal shelters, charities that support rescued animals, animal rehabilitation centers, and other animal science/management-related environments. Their roles and responsibilities can include teaching, assessment, feedback, curriculum development, evaluation, educational leadership, innovation, scholarship, and research related to teaching and learning.

The Professional Identity of a Teacher

This chapter is set on the premise that teaching is a profession and that teachers are professionals. Importantly, the veterinary teacher needs to identify with this self-concept. What does being a professional in teaching mean? How does it compare with other professions and in particular with the veterinary, veterinary nursing, or scientific professions? It will be helpful to think of the following questions:

  • What do professionals do?
  • What affects what they do?
  • How do they do it?

Squires’ (1999) three basic characteristics of professional work in any domain help to answer these questions:

  • What do professionals do? Professional work is instrumental: it should serve to pursue an aim. It has a purpose beyond what the professional activity is. For example, the doctor treats a patient not just to practice medicine, but to make a sick person feel better. Similarly, the teacher teaches not just because they enjoy teaching or they have to teach, but to help their students learn.
  • What affects what they do? Professional work is contingent: it should be set in the context or situation. Professional work is conducted in situations that are specific for that profession and involves professional judgment, decision-making, and so on. For example, the situations with which a lawyer has to deal are different to those of a veterinarian who has to diagnose a case. This is also pertinent for a teacher, for example a teacher has to assess and give feedback, and make decisions and judgments. These decisions will affect their students’ learning (see Box 36.3).
  • How do they do it? Professional work is procedural: it involves a certain way of doing things. Each profession has specific ways of doing their professional work. For example, veterinarians have an inventory of approaches, diagnostic tools, and decision-making and treatment options. A teacher also has a repertoire of approaches, tools, materials, and methods.

In the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary a “professional” is defined as:

  • relating to a job that requires special education, training, or skill;
  • done or given by a person who works in a particular profession;
  • paid to participate in a sport or activity.

Thus, similar to other professions, teachers need special training to do their job, to satisfy the demands of society and of their learners. However, this is a challenging task. Science based experts’ value being a veterinarian, veterinary nurse, or scientist and not a teacher. This will be discussed under the professional identity of the teacher, later in this chapter.

Factors That Affect the Teacher

A thorough understanding of the factors that motivate and drive a teacher is fundamental in planning a program to teach the teacher. As a professional in teaching, the teacher needs to identify the internal and external factors that influence them. Figure 36.1 outlines major factors that have been identified as influencing a teacher. Being aware of these influences will help the teacher to critically assess their own limitations and strengths, and to identify training needs required to play an effective role as a teacher.

A diagram of a triangle with text listed inside and text listed outside for internal and external drivers, respectively, that influence a teacher.

Figure 36.1 The internal and external drivers that influence a teacher. Source: Adapted from Sweet, Huttly, and Taylor, 2003.

Internal Factors

It is important that teachers’ physiological and physical needs with regard to general human needs (Maslow, 1943) are met, so that they can continue their work as a professional in teaching. These include the infrastructure of the workplace, time and space requirements, and remuneration. It is essential to have emotional balance to be an effective teacher. This may depend on the culture of the workplace, peer support, and an understanding of how their role fits in with the teaching curriculum. Their self-esteem may depend on social esteem, societal expectations, and how society regards them. Teachers should receive recognition for what they do, both at the institutional level and the societal level. The social esteem for veterinary teachers is higher in many developed countries compared to those in countries where the veterinary profession has a low level of self-worth (Lane, 2015). Both social and self-esteem, in turn, can affect the emotional status of the teacher. Being aware of these factors is relevant to the teacher’s personal wellbeing. Finally, the most crucial internal driver could be self-actualization, which is defined in psychology as “motive to realize one’s full potential” (Goldstein, 1939). The highest achievement for teachers is seeing their students’ success at the end of the teaching semester/year, and ultimately as professionals in practice. For this, high-quality and effective teaching and assessment are crucial. The recognition of this final point will be the ultimate objective of any program (formal or informal) designed to develop teachers so that their own vocational aspirations are fulfilled.

External Factors

One of the main external factors that drive a teacher is student expectation. The student in higher education is struggling with a rising debt burden and they demand from teachers what they perceive as “high-quality” teaching. Student perceptions of “good teaching” include getting constructive feedback, understanding student difficulties, being good at explanations, being passionate and making a subject interesting, motivating students to do their best, and showing an interest in students’ opinions and wellbeing (Ramsden, 1992). There is, however, a dichotomy between what students classify as high-quality teaching and the evidence-based approaches that teaching institutions are adopting for effective teaching (Kirshner, Sweller, and Clark, 2010). The teacher is “trapped in the middle” and can be under considerable pressure. In addition, teaching quality is judged at different levels. Students, peers, and employers judge the quality of teaching of individual teachers, though some of the approaches used for quality assurance are based on feedback and this can be unreliable and invalid (McLean, 2008). Finally, teaching institutions as a whole are judged for their teaching quality by national and institutional policies and professional and other accreditation bodies, which all exert demands on the individual teacher. The individual who is hoping to pursue an academic career may be completely unaware of these competing demands. Understanding these issues from the outset will be helpful to ensure balance and to prioritize.

A Curriculum for Teaching the (Veterinary) Teacher

The Curriculum as a Driver for Change

Here, the curriculum is considered in its broadest sense, as an “ideological, social and aspirational document that must reflect local circumstances and needs” (Grant, 2014, p. 31). The curriculum design for teaching the teachers can be guided by national and institutional policies (if there are any). This should be a strong signal to the individual teacher with regard to their professional role in teaching and learning. Thus, the aspiration is to change the institutional and personal attitudes, approaches, practices, and the culture as a whole toward effective teaching and learning (Parsons et al., 2012).

Individual institutions may develop more structured formal or informal curricula to teach their teachers.

Formal Curricula for Teaching the Teacher

Formal approaches to teaching teachers include postgraduate certificates or degree courses in higher education, short courses, workshops, themed tutorials, and seminars (Parsons et al., 2012; Steinert and Mann, 2006). There are several formal postgraduate teaching qualifications for medical and veterinary educators that are offered by higher educational institutions and medical deaneries in the United Kingdom (a deanery is a regional organization responsible for postgraduate medical and dental training, within the structure of the National Health Service). Within the veterinary sector, the local circumstances can vary from institution to institution, as well as from one country to another. Table 36.2 offers some examples of how veterinary teacher training is organized using formal approaches in different countries, as well as in teaching institutions.

Table 36.2 Examples of the organization of formal veterinary teacher training in four different countries

Country and veterinary teaching institution Teacher training program Qualification and duration
Australia – University of Sydney Graduate Diploma in Higher Education – a generic program with discipline-specific adaptations 1 year part time
The Netherlands – Utrecht Veterinary Faculty Basic Qualification of Teaching (in Dutch Basiskwalificatie Onderwijs, BKO) – a generic program that is adapted for discipline-specific veterinary education Up to 1.5 years part time
United Kingdom – Royal Veterinary College Postgraduate Certificate in Veterinary Education – discipline specific for teachers in the veterinary and paraveterinary sectors 1 year part time
United Kingdom – University of Nottingham Postgraduate Certificate in Veterinary Education 1 year full time
United States – University of California, Davis Teaching Scholar program Six months, half a day per week for 24 weeks

These are assessed qualifications and have been offered for mostly part-time study to teachers in the veterinary sectors over the last 5–10 years. Increasingly, a variety of delivery modes are adopted to support busy professionals who are demanding to study in their own time and space, with the flexibility to attend courses that are directly related to their individual and employer needs, either face to face and/or at a distance, at the end of a computer (Miller, Smith, and Tilstone, 1998; Silva-Fletcher and May, 2015).

In addition to formal qualifications, workshops and short courses are offered as part of continuing education and/or to introduce pedagogical concepts to teachers. These are immensely useful for focusing on specific topics for training (Moon, 2001). Specifically, short courses on small and large group teaching, problem-based skills in teaching, curriculum design, leadership skills, and communications skills have all been demonstrated to be very effective at increasing the understanding of teachers (Steinert and Mann, 2006; Aspergen, 1999). Fellowship and teaching scholar programs have been used in both the medical (Steinert and Mann, 2006) and veterinary sectors (Srinivasan et al., 2007) to develop teachers. The teaching methods and activities that are used in these workshops and short courses, such as micro-teaching, group discussions, role play, giving and receiving feedback, and collaborative learning, make them interactive, enjoyable, and very effective (Moon, 2001). Although short courses or workshops raise awareness of evidence-based approaches to teaching, sustained support is necessary to implement changes to teaching (Parsons et al., 2012; Gormally, Evans, and Brickman, 2014). Feedback and mentoring the teachers in addition to training are considered as essential to maintain and improve practice (Hattie and Timperley, 2007).

Oct 15, 2017 | Posted by in GENERAL | Comments Off on Teaching the Teacher

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