1. Think about the best, most effective, or memorable teachers in your life. What qualities made them the best, most effective, or memorable? What specific things did they say or do in or out of the classroom to create learning moments for you or your classmates? Could you use any of these things in your teaching? Why or why not?
2. Think about your personality traits. What are you known for? How do people describe you? How do you want people to describe you? List three descriptors of the best version of you.
3. Think about how you want your students to relate to you. What qualities or values do you want to communicate through your teaching? What vibe do you want to bring to the classroom? What do you want them to leave knowing about you?
1. Create your teaching persona. Develop a role for yourself that you will adopt in the classroom.
2. Build a representation of this persona using sculpture, drawing, or writing.
Hunting for assumptions about ourselves and our students allows us to ground our teaching practice in carefully examined beliefs, values, and facts. In Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher (1995), Stephen Brookfield introduces the idea of hunting for assumptions and defines paradigmatic, prescriptive, and causal assumptions as the three categories of assumptions to hunt for and explore:
Paradigmatic assumptions are the hardest of all assumptions to uncover. They are the structuring assumptions we use to order the world into fundamental categories. Usually we don't even recognize them as assumptions, even after they've been pointed out to us. Instead we insist that they're objectively valid renderings of reality, the facts as we know them to be true. Some paradigmatic assumptions I have held at different stages of my life as a teacher are that adults are self-directed learners, that critical thinking is an intellectual function characteristic of adult life, that good adult educational processes are inherently democratic, and that education always has a political dimension. Paradigmatic assumptions are examined critically only after a great deal of resistance to doing this, and it takes a considerable amount of contrary evidence and disconfirming experiences to change them. But when they are challenged and changed, the consequences for our lives are explosive.
Prescriptive assumptions are assumptions about what we think ought to be happening in a particular situation. They are the assumptions that are surfaced as we examine how we think teachers should behave, what good educational processes should look like, and what obligations students and teachers owe to each other. Inevitably they are grounded in, and extensions of, our paradigmatic assumptions. For example, if you believe that adults are self-directed learners then you assume that the best teaching is that which encourages students to take control over designing, conducting and evaluating their own learning.
Causal assumptions are assumptions about how different parts of the world work and about the conditions under which these can be changed. They are usually stated in predictive terms. An example of a causal assumption would be that if we use learning contracts this will increase students' self-directedness. Another would be the assumption that if we make mistakes in front of students this creates a trustful environment for learning in which students feel free to make errors with no fear of censure or embarrassment. Of all the assumptions we hold, causal ones are the easiest to uncover. Most of the reflective exercises described in this book will, if they work well, clarify teachers' causal assumptions. But discovering and investigating these is only the start of the reflective process. We must then try to find a way to work back to the more deeply embedded prescriptive and paradigmatic assumptions we hold. (Brookfield 2-3)
1. As a group, discuss the assumptions handed out at the beginning of the session. Is this a valid assumption? Why or why not? Can you find an alternative to this assumption? How can you use lessons from this assumption to strengthen your teaching practice?
2. Write down one assumption that you have about teaching, higher education, or college students. How can you, in your teaching persona, address this assumption?
As your persona, write a script for the first two minutes of class. Where will you stand? What will you do? What will you say? How will you communicate your persona to the students right away? Set the stage so you can be memorable in your own way.
1. Rehearse. In pairs, rehearse your script. Try reading it directly from your paper, slowly, with intention. Try varying the tone, volume, or pace. Memorize the gist of it (or the exact words), then inhabit the role and make it believable. Consider rehearsing while running in place, or while getting interrupted by your partner. Use these two minutes to go over the top and into your teaching persona.
2. Perform. As your persona, perform the first two minutes of class. The other members of the workshop group are your students.
3. Optional performance. Set an improvisational framework for a difficult moment in the class. Workshop group members are the students. As your persona, react and adjust to this difficult moment in the classroom.