Reflecting on what I learned this semester: five perspectives on teaching adults

A semester is one of the three periods of an academic year (usually 15-18 weeks). In the next two weeks, most of American students will be finishing their spring semester. Spring semester starts on January and ends in April. I had three exiting courses this term: marketing account planning, advance quantitative data research, and teaching methods. I am building my education around three pillars: education (teaching methods), entrepreneurship (marketing), and research (quantitative data). In my research class, I discovered regression analysis statistics and structural equation modeling. Two concepts that I need to understand the entrepreneurship journals I read. A lot of useful knowledge is created through entrepreneurship academic journals that I could not understand because I did not know the basic statistic to interpret them. In my marketing class, I discovered models to decide how to market a product, how to choose a market niche and the best message to build a brand product. In my teaching method class, I discovered that you can teach from different perspectives and the most efficient perspective is always linked to the subject matter you are teaching. Before this class, I thought my teaching perspective was the best perspective and everyone should teach in the way I do. The key to have this “teaching perspective awareness” was the book five teaching perspectives in teaching adults and higher education by Daniel D. Pratt & associates. This book is result of several years of teaching and research on teaching adults in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and United States. The book reports a study of 253 teachers who were asked what it meant “to teach”. Their responses revealed five qualitatively different perspectives on teaching: (1) transmission, (2) apprenticeship, (3) developmental, (4) nurturing, and (5) social reform. My first awareness about my preferred teaching perspective was taking this test. The test faced me to a set of questions that I never answered before (I invite you to take the test, it is free, has scientific purposes, and it help to reflect on teaching practices).

The five perspectives are ways to explore how the different components of teaching (content-teacher-learner) relate each other. I scored high in developmental and nurturing perspectives.  knowing that different perspectives exist I wondered: is the way I teach the same way I like to be taught? Answering this question I started appreciating others perspectives.  It was hard for me to recognize the contribution of other perspectives because I used to overvalue the developmental perspective.

I began teaching after complete a training as ontological coach. Ontological Coaching is about coaching to way of being, as a means of producing major shifts in perception and behavior. People who do ontological coaching strongly believe in the developmental perspective. The developmental perspective is THE perspective that ontological coaches learn. Which I think is okay given the critical reflection sought by this method. Coaching do not transfer models or flow chart but increase awareness. However, there is much more subject matters than what ontological coaching teaches. When I received training as a coach I was implicitly taught to neglect other perspectives of teaching. “Any perspective that assumes the transmitter-message-receptor model is built in the old paradigm therefore is useless” ontological coaches seem to say. Through my teaching method class I learned the perspective depends more on the subject matter than in the paradigm. Sometimes, models are good to be more efficient and live better. Sometimes, the transmission perspective can be an excellent base before going into the apprenticeship perspective or into the developmental perspective. For instance, medicine school in USA starts with two years of pre-med. In pre-med students learn basic sciences such as physic, chemistry, and biology. Most of the methods applied in pre-med belong to the transmission perspective, which is not always wrong. Diagrams, models, flow chart, and tables can be good too when the professor knows the material and can explain the usability of the chart exposed. I learn I can use the five perspectives depending on the subject matter: I can use transmission to teach human resource management and marketing, not everything but many charts and models I have learned are very usable. The apprenticeship perspective is the best for on-the-job training and if I have to improve performance, this is the perspective to implement. The developmental perspective is definitively the perspective which I feel more comfortable. I have a background in psychology that helps to be inquisitive, persuasive, and disorienting. People develop critical thinking when they experience disorienting dilemmas. Disorienting dilemmas can be created through coaching. The nurturing perspective is best to increase self stem. It is not very encouraged in the ontological coaching method though. The social reform is my preferred perspective to do political education. I can design a class using three or four perspective during the same session. It has been a discovery to understand and manage other perspectives. I feel I was so wrong believing that only developmental perspective is the best way to teach. It is very arrogant to make a statement like that.

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