Yes. This is the simple and quick answer.
Of course I have learned from teaching! Who has not? Maybe a better question to pose would be, “What have I learned from teaching?”
One of the best things I have learned from teaching is to listen. Listening can start with a simple question or statement. Try listening to your students for one week. Really hear what they say about your class.
Involve the students with the creation of the class. Create surveys asking specific questions about class content and organization.
I can remember the first online class I taught. This was way back in 2005. I was so proud; using the latest technology to lecture and provide handouts. The class was organized so even a beginning user could navigate it.
There were so many issues that I had to recreate the class before the next year! I “recreated” this class for another FIVE years; listening to the issues students had and which issues were similar. I finally decided to stop offering the course. To this day, I find myself yearning to teach it again and recreated it a few more times!
Next thing I know, I decide to bring another class online; a new experience for the whole college. This one was like no class seen before and none will match it after. I was ready for any and all the problems of an online class based on past history. Off I went developing an excellent online course for all to admire!
This one had its own issues. What I did differently, because I am smarter now, was to ask the students what they thought of the class. What was their experience? Each semester, I threw a survey out to students on what they felt could be changed within the class. I even asked the same question within the Discussion Board of Blackboard, adding what their favorite assignment, or least favorite was, and why.
From their answers, those things I could change, I did. The class has morphed into a wonderful opportunity to grow. It just gets better each semester!
Now, I facilitate two classes which someone else created. I cannot change the content of these assignments as they follow a set degree. What I can change is how they are presented and how I can challenge the students. I just add a little “Ruth” to the class. Is this good? Sometimes it is…Sometimes it is not. The students let me know.
Even with these classes, I add that “Silly Survey” and ask those same questions:
- What day is best for online class meetings?
- What time is best for online class meetings?
- Did you learn anything new in this class?
- Would you recommend this class to others?
And the most important question of the Silly Survey…
- What can the Instructor do to make this a better class?
By leaving the survey anonymous, I have had wonderful feedback…and some not so wonderful feedback. Students feel free to express their needs. One wrote (from an older class), the assignments failed to show the worth of the program. Another stated the class was not filled with enough academia and needed to be “harder”. Still another found it difficult to understand why the class was offered at all.
There were often comments that hurt. They stabbed at the core of my existence. These comments are the ones I learn from the most. They tell me what the students are seeing and hearing within the confines of online education. These are the comments that make me a better person. These are the comments that lead to better instruction, thus making me the best instructor I can possibly be.
Listening with an open mind, and an open heart, is what I have learned from teaching.