An example of an effective teaching practice relates to one aspect of my work as a doctoral student. Remote students in the program had the option to undertake three separate and distinct research projects rather than undertake the typical comprehensive exam process that is part of most doctoral programs. This was an advantage to me as I was working full-time, had family commitments and time allocated to academics was seldom contiguous. From an academic perspective, undertaking three research projects, each structured like a mini-dissertation was good practice and a valuable learning experience in preparation for undertaking the doctoral dissertation.
This experience was different from other project based coursework as the level of expectation was different. In the research project, the focus was not so much on the problem itself, but on bringing structure to the problem following the scientific method. Evaluation of results was therefore at a much higher level than for typical course project work. And much of the project focus was upon critical reflection and deep understanding.
- The independent research projects were an effective practice for me personally as it made good use of my available time. But more importantly, the projects focused my efforts on the scientific process rather than upon the research results.
- This experience reminds me of teaching Chemistry to Grade 8, 9 and 10 students. In my experience, students were always rushing to the results stage of the experiment, ignoring the structure and process of the scientific method. In spite of constantly being reminded to follow the process, results were more important that the process. It is somewhat ironic therefore that at a later point in life, the teacher finds himself faced with the same issue – that the scientific method adds to the body of knowledge by following the method, not simply by publishing the results.
- One of the challenges with any project work concerns how best to showcase the work. Thinking back to being a student in elementary school or even as an instructor for higher-level courses where project work was assigned, three factors emerge – organizational skills, speaking ability and artistic ability. Without direction, one or all of these factors can shape how effectively the student is able to showcase the work. What I took away from Lesson 2 in this training program was that there exist practices that can be learned, by both instructor and student alike, that improves the level of engagement when attempting to showcase work. Useful information for the toolkit! Outside of the classroom, there are many occupations where delivering presentations is a requirement of the job.