Learning to Teach and Teaching to Learn

Greetings and happy Friday! I’m settling back in after a ton of summer travel and summer conferences. Well, if by settling back in I mean feeling overwhelmed and how is summer almost over and the first-years are coming, is that the Jaws theme song I hear?


Last week I attended a week-long teacher training workshop in Land of Maple Syrup and Ben & Jerry’s Vermont with a lot of fabulous academic librarians. I’m still processing all the new things I learned, but there have been a few takeaways in particular that have stayed with me this week.

At one point during the workshop we spent time (as teachers do) going over learning styles and learning theory. I know some people don’t think all that much of learning style tests and categories (I certainly don’t swear by them), but I feel that having some level of self-awareness about how you like to do things can never hurt. For my part, I made an interesting self-discovery during all of this – my teaching style is actually quite (and in some cases dramatically) different from some of my learning style preferences.

As a learner I favor time for writing and note taking; as a teacher I favor discussions and group activities. Someone mentioned to me at this training, that teaching, after a time, can diverge from, or even shift, a person’s learning preferences, which is something I hadn’t really thought much about before.

This got me thinking about how the act of teaching is itself a learning activity and how I could perhaps use teaching as a learning tool in the classroom.

I first started teaching in museum environments, which favor hands-on learning. And it was in museums that I rather quickly learned the value of activity-based learning and developed a style that is heavy on group interaction. Since the act of teaching was such an invaluable learning experience for me, I wonder if I can find ways to use it in the classroom now.

I posted a while back about the idea of letting students drive/take charge in the classroom to build confidence, give them a stake in their own learning, and help them approach material in a new way. Teaching something can definitely give you new insight into it. But I now wonder if mixing in activities where students are teaching each other, or me, can do more than give them added insight into the content we’re covering. I wonder if teaching can give students some insight into how they process, use, and share information. If my main goal is to teach my students information literacy and critical thinking skills, and if those skills are all about processing and using information, then perhaps the act of teaching itself can be a vehicle for building information literacy and critical thinking skills.
Aside from giving students time to demonstrate skills and teach one another, I also want to start being more transparent (and, dare I say, meta) and sharing my own teaching practices, learning outcomes, and overall thought processes with my students. Perhaps highlighting the ways I deal with and share information will spark some interesting conversations and will encourage my students to think about how they themselves handle information.