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Reading: Intellectual and Emotional Obstacles to Adopting Evidence-based Teaching Practices – improving learning

From Intellectual and Emotional Obstacles to Adopting Evidence-based Teaching Practices – improving learning

David Wiley considers why teachers might resist the methods he’s promoting: You can hear the Promotion in casting intellect and emotion as Obstcles. But let’s consider a few of his points:

It’s a truism in higher education that the majority of faculty have advanced degrees in their disciplines but no formal training in teaching and learning. Absent formal training, many faculty replicate the teaching and learning practices of … their favorite professors …

It’s a truism but Wiley is jumping the gun: He needs to argue that those w/formal training adapt evidence-based teaching while those who don’t suffice with … er evidence that how they learned was effective. This is anecdotal not evidence in Wiley’s argument.

Why is it so difficult for people to adopt evidence-based practices? In the case of college and university faculty adopting evidence-based teaching practices, the reasons appear to be personal. Smith and Herckis (2018) provide an amazing report of related work in the adoption of technology-enhanced learning resources, which deeply influences my thinking below.

Wiley himself seems to be getting entangled in the cross-over of “technology-enhanced learning resources” (?) and “evidence-based learning.” Of course those teachers who adapt TELR adapt EBL. We need to set that against other “resources” and methods to make signficant sense of the work.

And, in a similar path, of course teaching practices are personal – in spite of Wiley’s condescending assertion that we are not how we teach: “Perhaps it begins with helping faculty understand – both intellectually and emotionally – that they are not their teaching practices.” Engagement demands personal engagement. It’s what teachers seek to create in students; it’s what teachers must practice to be teachers. It’s even what Wiley demonstrates by being condescending towards teachers: that’s a personal attitude embedded in his teaching method.

In the end, Wiley makes a case for the value of being entwined and engaged.

Faculty’s mental models of what “good teaching” looks like are thus deeply personal because they are intertwined with their own experiences as learners. Their teaching practices can even become entangled with their sense of identity, leading faculty to think of the way they teach as a part of “who they are.”

Intertwined and entangled and engaged is the mental model we desire.

I, for one, spent a lot of my professional life believing that showing faculty the data was all that would be necessary. That if a preponderance of well-designed studies showed that a specific teaching practice was more effective, the scholarly evidence would be sufficiently persuasive on its own.

Cognitive studies and cognitive models (Flower and Hayes, and others in rhet-comp) do not address did not address what I taught. They did not measure what I needed to see as evidence of learning. To my mind, this is at the center of the active skeptisim of “evidence-based learning”: It does not provide the kind of evidence of the kind of learning that would address what I needed to know to iterate my teaching methods.

Ask the teachers what makes evidence of learning in the discipline and in the context in which teaching a learning are occuring. To see why teachers resisit, consider that *they already have ways of producing evidence of learning – evidence that fits that suits the material they are teaching.

Finally, Wiley and EBL get lost in the black boxes of Effectiveness and Efficiency. These are not effective nor efficient measures of the kind of learning I ever sought or practiced – or even learned by. In teaching that deserves the title of teaching, effective and efficient are laugable.

See Coles, William, The Plural ‘I’ and After. And Berthoff, Ann. Forming/Thinking/Writing and her further work in reading, writing, and forming.