This post is part of the series PhD Talk for AcademicTransfer: posts written for the Dutch academic career network AcademicTransfer, your go-to resource for all research positions in the Netherlands.
These posts are sponsored by AcademicTransfer, and tailored to those of you interested in pursuing a research position in the Netherlands.
If these posts raise your interest in working as a researcher in the Netherlands, even better – and feel free to fire away any questions you might have on this topic!
Often, you will be asked to write a teaching vision document when you apply for a faculty position. Moreover, you may need to write a teaching statement if you are taking a professionalizing course on teaching at the university level.
Perhaps you considering writing a teaching vision document as a time-consuming chore that does not touch upon reality. Today, I would like to invite you to think differently.
Let’s spend a bit of time together to think through our teaching vision in depth, and see how we can use this in our classroom.
First of all, let’s get to the core of our teaching vision:
- Values: I believe that the strongest foundation of a teaching vision lies in our personal values. If you’ve never done the exercise on determining your personal values, now is a good time. Take no more than 3-5 of your core values, and link these to your teaching. If your personal values and your teaching values are not aligned, your career and teaching goals will not be aligned with what you value most as a person. My core values on which my teaching is centered are compassion, excellence, and creativity.
- Methods: How do you think people learn best? Think about the groups of students you have met – when you were a student, and as you got your first teaching experiences. Avoid the pitfall of taking yourself as the only (n = 1) reference, but think about a variety of different learners. Which methods do you think are most valuable in the classroom? In my case, I focus on three methods: Socratic dialogue, activating the senses, and gamification.
- Causes: Which causes do you care about most? How can you link the causes you want to support with your teaching? Can you focus on particular problems in society in your class? Can your classroom be a driver for social justice and disruptive change? Again, aligning the causes you want to fight for with your teaching will make you feel more centered in your work. The main causes I care about are diversity, equity and inclusion, and climate collapse. I work on making my classroom a safe space for students from various backgrounds, and I implement lectures in which I work with my students on how to find solutions in the construction industry for the climate catastrophe.
Thinking about these aspects, you can write your teaching vision. What do you teach? How do you believe students learn best? Which methods do you use? Which values are at the basis of your teaching? Which causes do you wish to support with your teaching? You should be able to explain all of this in maximum two paragraphs.
Then, once you have crafted the first draft of your teaching vision, I invite you to bring this vision to life:
- Values: What should you change in your teaching so that it can be more in line with your personal values? Think about each of the values you listed, and identify 3-5 ways in which you can implement these values in class. You will need to test-drive various of these potential ways on different generations of students to be able to say what really works in your classroom to bring your values to life. But, you will see that as you are in the process of learning to work practically with your values, you will feel a deeper understanding of your values in practice. For example, for my core value of compassion, I continue to learn how to balance being a compassionate teacher with getting everyone to the end of the semester with all tasks completed, and when to be a compassionate listener versus when to send students to the right university offices for them to get the necessary support. Note that this process takes time, and I fully understand that your first semesters of teaching are mostly dedicated towards developing materials and learning to balance your various tasks.
- Methods: There are many teaching methods out there – some with more evidence to back them up than others. As I work at two universities, I sometimes even get completely conflicting advice. For example, one university trained me to give feedback using a “sandwich” method, and the other taught me that feedback should be delivered as directly as possible. I recommend you to first think about a handful of methods you want to use, and then also to check the literature to see if these have been researched, so that you have a deeper understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of the methodologies you select. For example, I learned the debunked theory of different types of learners based on the senses. However, I think that different sensory experiences in class can be helpful to provide the material in a broader way. As a result, I try to think through different ways in which I can engage my students’ senses with the material, and which exercises I can design for this purpose.
- Causes: You have my full permission to use your classroom as a vessel for activism. While the modern-day university may want us to be all interchangeable employees, I advocate for teachers to have a name, a face, and be outspoken about how the material we teach and the way we show up in the classroom can impact the broader society. In every class I teach, I reserve time for lectures on the future of Topic X (with Topic X the name of the course I teach). How is climate change going to impact our profession? Which actions can we take? Which changes are necessary? Which new solutions proposed in research have potential for upscaling?
In today’s post, I have invited you to think a bit deeper about your teaching vision, and to take the next step: align your teaching with what you care about most personally. I think that this type of alignment is as important as constructive alignment of courses.
Have you written a teaching vision? Did writing your teaching vision inspire you to think about how you can apply your ideas in the classroom?