Online teacher trainingAll teachers know their content but have no training on how to teach it. How did you learn to teach?

Expert Answers
timbrady eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't this you can ever say when "did" you learn to teach; this is something we learn every time we do it.  I took the teacher training courses that cburr mentioned, and I do think they have some use in presenting some of the many possible ways that you might want to "teach" ... but they are all theory and I did not find them all that helpful past my first year of teaching (I'm just starting my 41st).

I think I learned a lot from my worst teachers.  I remember the many conversations I had in HS/College with other about how horrible some of the things that teachers were doing  (eg. reading the text to us, reading their notes to us, making us memorize all the time) and swearing that we would never do any of that to OUR students.  I always wanted to understand, to be given a chance to learn on my own --- to develop the skills that would allow me to do this.

I found the intellectual framework for this when I attended a week long program by William Spady after teaching for 20 years.  He presented an outcome based definition of education that emphasized three areas:  what students should KNOW, be able to DO, and be LIKE.  The outcomes should be at a high a level as possible and should relate to as much of a student's future life as possible.  For instance, the understanding of character development is the outcome; using any particular book can get us to this outcome, so it is not important that we use any one text, or that students know the details of any one of the characters.  Emphasizing these lower level exercises (eg. preparing for tests about the details of any one book) may have a purpose, but they are always subordinated to the larger outcome.

I think some of this is intuitive. In my early teaching, I saw many students who never experienced the thrill of reading because they were overwhelmed with details; they are important, but too often they become the only thing.  I have always done a lot of the ordinary "stuff" --- vocabulary (from our texts whenever possible), writing (always, hopefully, about something students care(d) about) and, of all things, test prep.   But the guideline was always the larger outcomes.  It has worked for most of my students.

maadhav19 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For teaching at the college level, it has been my experience that some graduate programs train their students to teach their subjects, while some other simply do not. And it seems that reflection on the grad students' teaching experiences is a rarity. I have taight both in the classroom and online, and have worked hard to improve in both kinds of teaching. And the main method I used to improve is trial and error.

When it comes to online teaching, I teach at two different institutions. Both of these colleges had training programs for their online faculty. This training involved how to set up a course, how to use the online format, and how to interact with the students online. Honestly, the last point was the most crucial and I think the most important takeaway lesson was to establish a presence in the classroom. In a face-to-face class, everyone knows you're the professor: you're the guy up front talking loudly. You can use visual cues to establish your presence in the classroom. But online the main tools you have are responsiveness to student comments and questions.  It helps to be able to check the class every day and respond to student emails or reply to student posts.

I've also taken a few online classes (some with the help of tuition waivers) to see what it is like from the student's point of view. You can get an impression, rightly or wrongly, about a prof by how well the course is designed, how frequently or infrequently the prof responds to questions or grades assignments. Some of these things are out of your control; for one of my classes, the college makes the web pages and I'm not permitted to make changes (typos, some badly written assignments, and all). But for the most part, it seems that if a prof is willing to work with the students, is willing to make an effort, that counts for a lot. At least I hope so.  

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The previous posts do a wonderful job in articulating the complex and dynamic nature of teaching.  I am fairly confident that I will add little to such a strong collection of voices.

I think that the development of teaching as a vocation relies on a combination of teacher preparation, practical experience, and personal reflection.  Over my career and at different points, I advocated one component at the expense of the other two.  When I began my teaching, I was convinced that institutional preparation was the defining element in teaching.  After the first year, I was convinced that practical experience was the defining element in teaching, and then at about the fourth or fifth year, I was convinced that personal reflection was the defining element in teaching  (Sense a pattern?)  I am now entering my 14th year of teaching and over the last half decade, I believe that the artful science of successful teaching resides in being able to synthesize elements of each into one's daily practice.  Decisions and actions cannot be taken in isolation and context is critical in taking action.  The importance of all three components cannot be understated.

joe30pl eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I learned by watching others. I was lucky to be in a great student teacher program. From watching how other teachers interact with their students to the way they carried themselves, I studied and memorized what they did before a class.

From there I picked up watching and talking to other teachers and just making notes on what they did and why. Teaching, I have found, is a job where you constantly are learning new skills and new ways to use those skills.

And I also disagree on teachers not knowing how to teach. That was drilled into our minds in the program: "The students do not know the subject. It is your job to teach it." It was not just knowing adverbs and the like, it was also about getting the information across in such a way that the students retain the knowledge for future use.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If this post is about online teacher training, there are plenty online colleges which require that you take their dashboard training prior to start, or during the course of the class ( I had to take one on both Blackboard and Angel).

In typical college, however, I might agree a bit in that some professors are more subject area experts than teachers and that is why so many students withdraw from courses such as Math and Physics- the professors know what they are saying, but may not know how to teach it.

Now, for school teaching we do have to get an internship, a practicum, observations, and portfolios together prior to graduation.

cburr eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I disagree that teachers get no training on how to teach.  Any decent teacher training program will have plenty of emphasis on teaching methods.

In my own case, I first trained to be a Montessori teacher, which included alot of theory about teaching methods and very practical detail on how to teach.

Then, over time, I picked up alot of training in special ed.

If I were to generalize, I would say that many teachers have more training -- and experience -- in how to teach.  They can then take these skills and apply them in various content areas.


litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am assuming you mean that teachers have no training to teach online?  This is not necessarily true.  I teach online for two different schools, Kaplan and the University of Phoenix.  In both cases I have received extensive training in how to operate in their online environment.  They incorporate best practices into their instructional model, but also provide professional development in a variety of ways.

dawnetteb04 | Student
Online teacher training

All teachers know their content but have no training on how to teach it. How did you learn to teach?

Teaching is an art and a science and anyone can learn through reading, observation and practice. Many teachers have the natural ability to teach and some do not.

I am a teacher and have learned through observation and experience. I've copied lessons, adding my own style and finesse, but if something didn't work, I tried something else. Many times the learning comes through trial and error and sometimes, well, it doesn't. Each person is different; however, my teaching program courses provided modling through various stages, the final product being left to me and my own way of doing things.

Good Luck!

epollock | Student

That just isn't true. Not every teacher knows their content, and it is a falsehood that teachers don't know how to teach. Most skills have theory and practical application of that knowledge. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, all have classes followed by some internship and licensing procedures. I had numerous class after class followed by a year of student teaching, then state testing to get my license.

beckybco | Student
Online teacher training

All teachers know their content but have no training on how to teach it. How did you learn to teach?

That is a great question and one that I have always asked as well.  As you probably have, I have had many instructors over the years that were very knowledgable in their discipline but had not teaching experience or skills.  In my opinion, you need both to be an effective teacher.

I am a college educator and I am very passionate about teaching.  I have the education, the experience and the drive but I am aware that is not enough.  I participate in training and professional development every day, whether it is formal or informal.  I am completing my PhD but I also read the literature, particpate in webinars on teaching, write, etc.