What I did not learn in graduate school

I can say many wonderful things about the English department at Emory; I’ve taken inspiring courses with brilliant professors, I’ve had many wonderful research and conference experiences and I’ve been able to work with the foremost scholars in my research fields. However, I received very little training in pedagogy in my department. 95% of what I have learned about teaching I had to teach myself, reinventing the wheel, researching on my own, talking with my peers, and finding a faculty mentor in a different department. Now that I’m about to graduate with a PhD, and I’m now employed full-time in an academic support, teaching and faculty development position, I’ve come to realize that my actual training has very little to do with what I’m actually going to be doing with my degree in my career. Online course instruction–whether I am teaching and developing courses, or supporting other faculty who are doing it–is a crucial part of this new career path. And this summer, I will be teaching an online summer course for students who are taking internships–there will be 40 students, most of whom will be international.

One of my my major concerns about teaching online is related to what I believe to be my best pedagogical strength: I am an excellent facilitator of discussion and F2F classroom dynamics. To be perfectly honest, I’ve been able to rely on that strength to carry me through on days when I’m underprepared. I know that this skill can’t translate directly (most of the time) into this medium, so I am really thinking about the ways I can leverage it, or at least bring some aspects of it into my online teaching.

21 thoughts on “What I did not learn in graduate school

  1. Thank you for your thoughts, Alyssa. Your upcoming class sounds exciting!

    I think by reflecting on your strengths as an instructor in traditional settings, you are already on the path of becoming an effective instructor in the online environment as well. Sure, facilitating discussion online can be much different than F2F discussion, but in many ways it is the same from a feedback perspective—and most learners really value feedback.

    One thing you might want to think about is using discussion strategies. For example, promote critical thinking by asking probing questions. Or try incorporating polling activities. There are lots of different “out of the box” activities you could experiment with. One resource I think is helpful surrounding tips for creative facilitation can be found here: https://www.edutopia.org/pdfs/stw/edutopia-onlinelearning-mastering-online-discussion-board-facilitation.pdf

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