Chris Brough – Tertiary Teaching Excellence Teaching Profile
Teaching profile from Chris Brough ( Faculty of Education, The University of Waikato.) – Award for Sustained Excellence in tertiary teaching 2012.
“I hated school. I became a teacher.
I hated maths. I became a Ministry Mathematics Consultant.
I seldom read a book. I became an author and I lecture in literacy”.
“Oh, the places you’ll go” (Dr. Seuss, 1990).
My journey into teaching began when I was finally brave enough to confess out loud that I wanted to be a teacher. This was a dream I had kept to myself. My experiences as a child at school were a little like Theodor Geisel’s (aka Dr. Seuss). I didn’t fit. I found school boring and irrelevant and consequently a place where I experienced an overwhelming sense of failure. Most academics are successes of the school system, I am not, and this difference contributes significantly to the personal drive I have to reach every single learner in my class. My own experiences have shaped my vision and influenced the way I teach as I strive to make learning meaningful, positive and highly engaging.
After a metamorphic transformation from a hospital telephonist to educator, I discovered I loved the artistry of teaching and that I thrived on the challenges it presented. Keeping learning engaging for students required me to wear numerous hats: facilitator, educator, learner, sales representative, entertainer, creator, researcher and expert. Teaching profoundly deaf children within my mainstream classroom enriched my teaching further as I became fluent at sign language, highly animated, visual and kinaesthetic. Other roles and experiences have included: a position as Mathematics consultant to the Ministry, facilitator of the Te Kauhua Mainstream Maori Project, author of teaching resources and children’s books, and teaching science on a Learning Curves Documentary series. These valuable experiences provided a strong foundation on which to draw as a teacher educator.
“Of all the teachers in our school,
I like Miss Bonkers best.
Our teachers are all different,
But she’s different-er
than the rest
(Dr. Seuss, 1998).
I aspire to be the best teacher that I possibly can be, a teacher who is innovative, engaging, knowledgeable and perhaps a little “different-er than the rest” (Dr. Seuss, 1998). What drives me is my passion for teaching, and in particular my love for children. I believe it is my role to inspire my student teachers to become active lifelong learners who are knowledgeable about learning, teaching, and literacy, and subsequently make a positive difference in the lives of the children they teach. I believe it is my responsibility to create a supportive, fun and innovative learning environment, so students feel confident to contribute, take risks and stretch their thinking. The democratic pedagogy which underpins the curriculum integration paper I teach is close to my heart. It involves empowering students and bringing relevance to learning. Recent research on initial teacher education reveals that the way we teach our students at university influences the kinds of teachers they will become and how well they will cope (Paris, Polson-Genge & Shanks, 2012). I have always believed this to be true, therefore it is vitally important to me that I model exemplary practice.
Design for learning
My design for learning reflects my core beliefs and classes are shaped to meet each course’s learning outcomes. As my students are all potential teachers, developing effective teaching and learning practices is a learning outcome embedded within most papers. Consequently, I must not only equip students with the curriculum content knowledge and theory they require, but also model effective and exemplary teaching practice and “live my talk”. Discussing effective pedagogy and practice is in itself totally inadequate; I design my classes with the intention that my practice is congruent with the theory.
Wherever possible my tutorials are designed to replicate the classroom setting where student teachers will eventually work. I draw upon my professional foundations as a teacher, using scenarios drawn from my experiences, and begin each module by establishing students’ prior knowledge. This helps me to identify connections I can make to existing knowledge which can be used to develop and strengthen new understandings of theory (Alton-Lee, 2003). For example, in oral storytelling I ask students to share experiences they have had listening to or telling stories. I replicate the classroom setting, presenting enthusiastic renditions of stories which include local legends, works by New Zealand authors, and children’s classics. I share exemplars from my practice where children have told, drawn, danced and written stories that have enhanced literacy development. While it would undoubtedly be more comfortable discussing storytelling rather than acting as though I am Winnie the Pooh, hanging from a balloon surrounded by buzzing bees, I am happy to be a little “different-er” in order to make a difference. I believe it is paramount to provide a quality exemplar before students participate in the process themselves.
In order to teach literacy effectively students need to understand how children learn language and become literate. Students need to know how to scaffold learners’ literacy development and be able to teach using the key approaches. I replicate the classroom by modelling how to teach reading strategies using different literacy approaches, which often involves students becoming the “class” of children. I also incorporate peer teaching to determine if students are able to apply learning to practice. I draw upon a broad range of teaching and learning strategies to enhance engagement and understanding, and demonstrate approaches that can be transferred to the school setting. I include a broad range of multi modal resources to keep tutorials varied and current. For example, I use websites or YouTube clips as well as traditional texts, to teach critical literacy. These media reflect the texts children will need to be taught to navigate and critique in a multiliterate world.
My tutorials are designed to cater for a variety of learning styles so I incorporate hands-on activities that are relevant, varied, engaging and challenging. I include drama, debating, role plays, quizzes, peer teaching, games, multimedia resources and problem-solving tasks, and I use flexible and varied groupings depending on the purpose of the task. I read children’s stories to instil a love of literature, and demonstrate how these texts can be used in the classroom. Many of the activities I incorporate are designed so students can apply new knowledge, consolidate learning or demonstrate understanding. For example when teaching about the visual language features of comics I ask students to create a comic strip incorporating different visual language effects.
Research on effective pedagogy tells us that student motivation is heightened, and achievement enhanced when students have input into learning (Alton-Lee, 2002; Ministry of Education, 2007). Genuine student inclusion requires taking a more facilitative approach to teaching. I believe the way we think about learners and learning affects the way we design courses and pose questions. I consider myself to be a learner, beside, and with my students (ako) and I believe it is essential to empower students through quality questioning and student inclusion. I aim to promote thinking by asking questions that do not position or steer students and actively seek student input.
“We’ve taught you that the earth is round,
That red and white make pink,
And something else that matters more –
We’ve taught you how to think” (Dr. Seuss, 1998).
Placing students at the centre of their learning helps me to plan tutorials that are relevant and identify areas of need. I draw on my student’s pre-existing knowledge and experiences, I encourage my students to ask questions, incorporate active participation, and co-construct learning. For example, a learning outcome in the third year literacy paper (TEAL321) is that students are able to apply theoretical understandings to the design of an effective literacy programme. In the first tutorial I invite my students to record on post-it notes, any questions or concerns they have about implementing their programme. Questions are categorised, and incorporated within the paper. This can often result in the inclusion of unanticipated content within modules or revisiting previous work to provide the additional support students require. Post-its remain on the wall, allowing further questions to be added, and students are invited to take down their question when they feel their query has been addressed, while any remaining questions are revisited.
In addition to teaching literacy, I co-teach the curriculum integration paper (TEPS 323) with my colleague Barbara Whyte. This course challenges traditional forms of curriculum delivery as its democratic teaching pedagogy involves children co-constructing curriculum with their teacher. This paper requires students to learn a more facilitative approach to teaching, thereby creating a more democratic learning environment for children. Many students find this presents a new challenge, particularly as the power-sharing pedagogy involves negotiating the curriculum with children, when previously they have planned for children. We try to reflect the pedagogy which underpins the democratic curriculum integration approach in both the design of the paper and the way it is assessed. We begin by establishing students’ understandings and experiences of integration while on practicum blocks, and questions are encouraged and addressed throughout the course. Choice is offered in the way students present their learning and who they work with. Presentations have included DVDs, power points, puppet shows, documentaries, dramas and a newspaper presentation. Students are also involved in the co-construction of assessment criteria, peer and self assessment and a negotiated essay topic.
Current research informs the content and design of the Curriculum Integration paper, the research of others and my own. I designed my Masters research project to determine how teachers might be helped to transition towards power-sharing pedagogy (NZARE Rae Munro Award, 2011). My research findings resulted in more deliberate scaffolding of students. I include a tutorial on strategies that novice teachers can use to create more democratic classrooms that promote co-constructed planning with children. Some of these include raising thinking in classrooms by focussing on quality questioning, creating a thinking environment and involving children in decision-making.
In future I wish to extend my expertise, particularly in the area of student-centred curriculum integration, and continue to work on enhancing paper designs to include higher levels of student inclusion. I wish to take further professional development opportunities, attending conferences and networking with colleagues both nationally and internationally. I will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of my practice as not a day goes by in my classroom when I do not learn more about myself, my learners and my practice. My motivation to enhance my teaching is twofold: to benefit my student teachers and to ultimately make a difference in the lives of the children they teach. I look forward to the new learning and places I have yet to go in my educational journey.
“You are off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So....get on your way!” (Dr. Seuss, 1990).
Peer and student comments
Every lecture is insightful, encouraging and intellectually stimulating. Not only has she taught us about literacy, but also taught and modelled how to be an effective teacher. I have really enjoyed having her as a lecturer and always look forward to her classes Student feedback, 2010
Chris has been my literacy lecturer over the past 3 years. I have thoroughly enjoyed her classes as she makes them so meaningful for all students in the class, and gives each student individual attention. She goes out of her way to make sure everyone is on the right track with their learning and challenges everyones thinking. She is always enthusiastic and it shows that she loves her job
Chris is amazingly passionate and supportive. Her passion for teaching young children shines through in her lectures. She has the ability to pass her passion and enthusiasm on to us and allowed us to experience the true excitement that we can gain from teaching. I have learnt not only about literacy but also how to be the best teacher I can be
Student, 2009 -2011
Chris is so enthusiastic when she’s teaching her subject that she bounces on the balls of her feet…I can’t wait for next year
I enjoy coming to literacy as I never know what to expect
Second year students, 2010
Chris, you have inspired and empowered me. You have lit the fire of many minds! Truly inspirational. Your heart and passion will travel through us all. You have given us the tools and knowledge in order for us to succeed.
Third year student, 2011