ALTA Conference, Teaching and Instructor Freedoms

This week’s ALTA conference was an interesting mix of papers. A number of people are talking about the ‘flipped’ classroom. This ‘new’ approach involves getting your students to read or do some other activity before they come to class.  It was interesting how new and unusual many people seemed to think this was. There was real concern about the possibility of getting students to do the work, and it became clear that some universities keep their teachers on a very tight rein – e.g., do not allow them to have class participation marks, do not allow a teacher to say to a class that they will not teach the class that day if they had not done the reading, and there was clearly a sense that many universities have so many rules that it makes it impossible for teachers to teach classes in the way they think fit.

There is always a tension, I guess, between too much and not enough regulation. The thing regulators of any kind (including teachers) need to keep in mind is the extent to which people will perform to expectation. If you regulate people as if they will behave badly they probably will. The challenge is to regulate in a way which suggests to people that they will do well so that they respond to those expectations and rise to meet them. Having some faith in teaching staff to do the right thing may be beneficial from that point of view alone.  The same applies to the classroom where students often perform extremely well when it is clear to them that they are expected to. 

By Prue Vines

2 thoughts on “ALTA Conference, Teaching and Instructor Freedoms

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  1. Great post. I used to kick students out of tutorials if they had not prepared, but only after giving them a warning in the first two tutorials. I’d send the un-prepared students out with a specific task to complete, and then get them to return and re-join the class. After doing that a couple of times, I’d then just kick them out. The graduate students seemed to appreciate it more than the undergrads, a maturity thing I think.

    That said, Prue I think the Socratic method is highly underrated. I see teaching as a goal driven activity: the goal is to provide the students with the knowledge and skills they need. Hence I focus on what works (for me). Fortunately the institutions I have taught at have allowed that level of flexibility.


  2. I could not agree more. I work in legal profession regulation and when we as a regulator emphasise the attitude towards the profession that we expect the vast majority to be doing well and striving for excellence, it transforms our dealings with them. How wonderful it would be if the newest members of the profession all went through law school with such high expectations.


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