The excellent teacher
Excellence in teaching is a hot topic. To all those involved in and committed to teaching reflecting on and developing strategies for how to be ‘excellent’ is not at all new. What has shifted in recent years is the focus on how to measure teaching excellence in order to compare and rank universities based on these measures, most notably with the new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). In an attempt to capture what we mean by teaching excellence, Harden (2016) suggests that:
“An excellent teacher can be defined in terms of the following equation:
ET = (I + R + F + A + C + L) × (S × E × D × T) × (P)
Being an Excellent Teacher (ET) involves a range of technical skills ( I is the Information provider, R is the Role model, F is the Facilitator, A is the Assessor, C is the Curriculum planner, L is the Learning resource developer); and adopting an appropriate approach to teaching (S is the Scientific education principles, E is the Ethics and attitudes, D is the Decision making, T is the Team working and P is the Professionalism). In the first part of the equation, the addition symbol is s used because Harden argues that an excellent teacher may not be expected to be excellent in all of those areas. In contrast, in the later parts of the equation a multiplication symbol is used because these approaches to practice and professionalism are essential and a “zero” would be incompatible with excellence in a teacher.
As someone who does not deal in equations other than when trying to work through maths homework with my children, my initial reaction to this was that it is ridiculous to try and rationalise it in this way. However when I read further into the article and the descriptions for each element of the equation and how they work together I began to see it as an interesting tool that I could utilise in my own reflections on teaching practice. In particular I began to wonder how this applies to those teaching SBS to medical students. I have started us off with some initial thoughts on the notion of being an information provider but would love to hear your thoughts.
Information provider: what kind of information relating to SBS do I need to provide and how best can I do that? We (BeSST) developed the core curriculum in Sociology (www.bessst.info/publications) which tackles the ‘what’ to an extent. However sociology is more a way of thinking than a list of topics. I am trying to encourage a critical and engaged approach among students so that, among other things, they can see beyond the disease and understand the person and the wider context in which they live. Developing this mindset (the sociological imagination, though I might not say that to medical students!) is really only in part about providing information and perhaps relates more to the crafting of a curriculum (C) and learning resources (L) and guiding learners through (F).
Increasingly I am questioning how I ‘provide information’ in large group contexts and how we can use those sessions to go beyond information provision in ways that are meaningful and useful to students – much large group flipped learning for example relates to the application of knowledge to some kind of problem solving, but does this work well for SBS teaching? A further challenge in relation to SBS is how to provide information to those who do not always see the information as relevant or as worthy of learning. As a teacher of SBS it can sometimes feel that others are pouring water into a sponge whereas we are pouring it over a rock.
Harden RM. An Excellent Teacher. MGM J Med Sci 2016;3(3):1-5.