One of academia’s dirty little secrets is that few professors any receive any kind of educational training. The assumption is that since most professors have PhDs, and are experts in their topics, they are fully equipped to teach this information to others. I’m not entirely sure how this is supposed to work. This harkens back to older models of education where students went to university to hear scholars spout their wisdom. But as countless studies and articles have shown, “telling isn’t teaching.”
If you’re lucky, and you have extra time on your hands (HA!) you might want to take a workshop or a class taught by your institution’s learning and teaching centre. Most universities have them these days, and they provide services to professors (and sometimes to students) who wish to improve upon their teaching. Unfortunately, this isn’t an option for everyone because: workshops are often only offered at certain times of the year; you might not be able to find one that suits your needs; when you’re teaching four courses a semester while trying to finish your doctorate, your “free time” consists of sleep; you simply don’t have the time. Some of us also want to have much more comprehensive training than a workshop can offer, but don’t have the time or the resources to do a certificate in education.
Thankfully, there are options available for such individuals. While I did benefit from the learning and teaching centre at UVic, most of what I’ve learned since I’ve started teaching has come from research that I’ve conducted myself online. Since I’m doing a series of blog posts this month all about going back to school, I thought that it would be well worth the effort to put all of that research together into one convenient package. So in this blog post, I’m going to provide you with a guide to online pedagogical resources. This list is in no way comprehensive, since there are literally thousands of websites and blogs these days devoted to teaching and learning in higher education. Instead, these are some of the resources that I’ve come back to over and over again, and that I believe have helped me to become a better teacher.
**You may be wondering why I’m not including scholarly publications in this list. There are several reasons. First, not all professors (especially sessionals!) have access to this kind of content since it requires access to the library’s database. Two, the majority of scholarly publications I’ve read tend to be either reflections on teaching or philosophical discussions. While I acknowledge that these are important, I’ve always been much more interested in practical advice and descriptions of actual techniques.**
***Since pedagogy is about how to teach, not what to teach, I’m only going to be focusing on general techniques, not on lesson plans. That’s a topic for another day. 🙂 **
Teaching and Learning Centres
One of the best places to start is by looking for the websites of Teaching and Learning Centres. Increasingly, a number of Teaching and Learning Centres are offering their material online to the general public, and you should take full advantage of this! Here are some of my favourite TLC resources:
Eberly Center for Teaching Excellent and Educational Innovation
The Eberly Center is located at Carnegie Mellon University and offers comprehensive information about all aspects of teaching and learning. Seriously, if you can think of it, it’s probably on this website. Don’t miss the sections on Designing and Teaching a Course, Technology for Education, and Assess Teaching and Learning, in addition to the remainder of the website.
Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching
While not as comprehensive as Eberly, the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching does offer a series of teaching guides that look at best practices and can direct you to additional resources. Some of the best guides include the one for Classroom Assessment Techniques, Active Learning, Digital Timelines, and Syllabus Construction. They also have a teaching blog that is worth checking out.
Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence
Cornell University’s teaching and learning centre is one that I’ve been using for many years. In the Teaching Ideas section, the centre offers short articles looking at very specific topics. Each article encourages you to think about your teaching, and provides links to additional resources as well as PowerPoint presentations from workshops. I’ve found their information on rubrics, collaborative learning (group work), and learning outcomes to be particularly good.
DePaul Teaching Commons
As with Vanderbilt, the DePaul’s learning and teaching centre provides a series of teaching guides to assist professors, as well as videos of workshops. While all of the teaching guides are good, I like the ones on learning activities the best, such as the guides on Activities for Metacognition and Active Learning.
University of Waterloo Centre for Teaching Excellence
Bet you thought i wasn’t going to include any Canadian universities. 😉 Americans aren’t the only ones who have great resources for educators. Waterloo’s teaching and learning centre has great resources, though their website can be difficult to navigate. Once you are on the main page, you’ll need to check out the menu in the upper left-hand corner, and select “Resources” (or just click here). The bulk of the useful information is located in the “Teaching Tips” sub-category, but you’ll need to either do a text search or use their categories to find any specific information. Some of my favourites from this section include Nine Alternatives to Lecturing, Active Learning Activities, and Critical Reflection. Don’t forget to check out the other sub-categories, and their articles as well, like Experiential Learning , Promoting and Assessing Critical Thinking, and their Teaching Stories.
Michigan State University Office of Faculty and Organizational Development
This is a recent find for me, however, this is the most comprehensive online guide to instructional resources that I’ve ever seen. The resources are organized by topic and by discipline. I’m in awe of the amount of work that went into this. Check out the main website here or check out their history-specific section here.
Online Magazines and Newspapers
News media lives!!! Ok, on a more serious note, there are several online magazines and newspapers that are devoted to the topic of teaching in higher education that I’ve found to be useful.
The Chronicle of Higher Education – ProfHacker
Probably the most well known is The Chronicle of Higher Education. While this newspaper is mostly known for providing news and information on higher education in general, and much of this information is behind a pay-wall, it does offer great resources on teaching via the ProfHacker blog.
ProfHacker has new posts Monday through Friday on a variety of topics related to pedagogy. While there are two editors for the blog, most of the posts are written by contributing authors from a range of fields and backgrounds. Since the blog first started in the summer of 2009, the back catalogue alone is impressive and covers just about anything you can think of. There are tutorials, software reviews, editorials, reflections, reading lists, and so on. I really cannot recommend this website enough. However, many of the posts on this blog are more philosophical than anything else, so it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
- “From the Archives: Preparing for the New Semester”
- “From the Archives: Creating Syllabi”
- “Organizing Your Teaching Materials”
- “A Scavenger Hunt Exercise to Teach Research Methodologies”
Inside Higher Ed
Inside Higher Ed in another online newspaper, established by former Chronicle employees. Inside Higher Ed offers many of the same features as The Chronicle, like news and jobs info, but there is no pay-wall for content. As with The Chronicle, Inside Higher Ed offers a series of blogs in addition to their regular news reporting. However, these blogs tend to be run by individuals and are much more idiosyncratic than those of The Chronicle. They also tend to deal with topics in the abstract rather than providing practical advice. That said, they offer a much broader range of material than The Chronicle, from wellness to administration to technology. The most useful blogs in terms of pedagogy that are currently updated, in my opinion, are Learn (technology and learning), University of Venus (women in higher ed), and StratEDgy (strategy and competition in higher education). They also publish articles on teaching and learning generally, which has its own section here. To be honest, I rarely use this website for anything more than their reports on higher education, but it’s definitely a good one to keep an eye on.
My absolute favourite online pedagogical magazine is Faculty Focus. It’s an entire magazine devoted solely to the issue of pedagogy in higher education. The website has a range of resources that can help, including online courses, free reports, newsletters, etc… But for my money, the most useful resources are the Faculty Focus main articles and The Teaching Professor blog.
Faculty Focus articles come out roughly once per week, and are written by a mix of regular authors and submissions from instructors and pedagogical experts. Some of the topics they cover include flipped learning, curriculum development, assessment, classroom management, etc…. While there are some philosophical pieces, the bulk of the articles are devoted to discussions of best practices.
The Teaching Professor blog is authored by Maryellen Weimer, who is an expert on teaching in higher education. She posts new blog post roughly once a week based. These blog posts tend to be very practical in nature, but there are also a number of great ones that encourage you to think differently about higher education and teaching. If you only check out one teaching and learning resource, it should be Faculty Focus.
- “A Memo to my Students Re: College and the Real World”
- “The Little Assignment with the Big Impact: Reading, Writing, Critical Reflection, and Meaningful Discussion”
- “How to Give Your Students Better Feedback in Less Time”
- “Reading Assignment Strategies that Encourage Deep Learning”
Faculty Focus also has a new brand podcast called The Professional Adjunct, which looks awesome. I haven’t listened to it yet, so I can’t say what I think about it, but based on Faculty Focus’ other offerings, its definitely worth checking out! I also recommend subscribing to their weekly newsletter, which has a great roundup of links on pedagogy.
Blogs and Personal Websites
The sheer number of blogs and personal websites devoted to pedagogy in higher ed is simply enormous. There is no way I could possibly cover them all here. So rather than try to be comprehensive, I’m just going to give you an overview of some of my favourites that deal with pedagogy in general. I’ll put the ones that are history-specific in the next section.
Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD
Raul Pacheco-Vega is a professor in Public Administration at Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas, CIDE, AC (Division of the Centre for Economic Research and Teaching). You may remember me mentioning him as the creator of the #scholarsunday hashtag. Pacheco-Vega’s website is an absolute treasure trove of information. He generally posts twice a week, but there is no set schedule. While much of his blog focuses on strategies for academic writing (which are awesome!), he does address the topic of pedagogy. I find that his insights are always really helpful despite being in such a different field.
- My Lecture Slide Deck Preparation Process
- Integrating Under-Represented Scholars Into My Syllabi
- Online Resources to Help Students Summarize Journal Articles and Write Critical Reviews
Hook and Eye
Hook and Eye is a collaborative blog dedicated to chronicling the experiences of women in Canadian universities. I absolutely love this blog and have been so sad that it’s been in hiatus all summer. I actually squeal when there are new blog posts (TMI?). There is no set schedule, but the blog generally has new posts two to three times during the school year. The blog is worth following because its content is so amazing, but it also regularly features great articles on teaching. These articles deal with everything from the emotional labour of teaching, wellness, adjunctification, the unique challenges faced by women professors, etc… Don’t think, just go visit the blog.
- How to Grade A Lot
- Show Your Work: Modelling Scholarship in Teaching
- Teaching and All the Feels
- Once More, With Feelings
The Tattooed Professor
This is one website you absolutely cannot miss. The Tattooed Professor is a blog run by Kevin Gannon, a history professor and the director of the Center For Excellent in Teaching and Learning at Grand View University. He has no set posting schedule, but he generally posts new articles twice a month. His blog posts are always on point, and I’ve learned so much from reading this blog over the years. Plus, he’s hilarious, irreverent, and has the funniest cat gifs (all super important!)
- The Great Student Blogging Experiment: Some Results
- Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto
- An Argument for Continental History
- What To Do When Discussion Dies
Teaching United States History
This website is a relatively new discovery for me, but from what I’ve seen so far, I’m impressed. Teaching United States History is devoted to the pedagogy of US survey classes, and there is much that can be applied to the Canadian versions. This is a collaborative website, with a managing editors, but the bulk of the blog posts are by regular contributors. New blog posts appear two to three times per week during the school year. What I like particularly about this website is that most of the bloggers are young professors who like to experiment. Some of these ideas might sound crazy, but they look awfully fun! Blog posts range from philosophical questions and best practices, to assignment examples, and more.
- Grading with Emojis (no, really)
- What’s Sticks Around After the Grades Are In?
- Pop Culture Revolution
- History is Emotional
If you do Canadian history, then you know about Active History. I presume no introduction is needed. While most of their posts deal with research, they have posted a handful of really great articles about teaching over the years. Do a quick search for “pedagogy” or “teaching” and you’ll find lots of amazing resources.
- Acknowledging the land and the People: A Practice for All Canadian Historians
- Writing is “easy”… Student Learning in the First-Year Canadian Survey Course
- Who Teaches Digital History in Canada?
- Truth and Reconciliation while Teaching Canadian History?
- Teacher-Students and Student-Historians: Discovering Margaret Austin and the Value of Experiential Learning with Spadina Museum
NiCHE is primarily known for its blog, The Otter, which looks at environmental history in Canada. As a result, many people overlook the other features of the website, the resources page, specifically with respect to teaching materials. While this material is mostly specific to environmental history in Canada, there is a ton of useful information here no matter what kind of history you teach. Also, while not it’s main focus, The Otter has also looked at teaching on several occasions, and there are several posts worth revisiting.
- Merle’s Seven Highly Applicable Steps to Better Teaching and Team Teaching
- Thinking About Teaching
- Lessons Learned from 18 Months of Trial by Fire Teaching
The Historical Thinking Project
I was so sad to find out that this project ran of funding before I even found out about it. For those who don’t know what the Historical Thinking Project was, it was a framework developed by Peter Seixas for teaching history. I’ve mentioned the website several times in previous posts. Though much of the material is geared towards high school history education, the six concepts of historical thinking are wonderful. It’s a great tool for unpacking what “critical thinking” actually means with respect to history.
I debated whether or not to add this one to the list. It’s not really a blog per say, and it doesn’t actually discuss how to teach. In the end, I thought it was important to include because it’s shaped how I teach Canadian history.
Need I say more? 😉
- How to Write a Syllabus for a Canadian History Survey Course
- Active Learning Strategies for Canadian History
- Recap from the 2016 Festival of Learning Conference
Finally, don’t forget about the wild and wonderful world of twitter! As with Canadian history, you can use hashtags to follow conversations about teaching and learning in higher education on Twitter. The #twitterstorians hashtag, which is the catch-all for history, sometimes features discussions on pedagogy. But if you’re interested specifically in pedagogy alone, here are some hashtags to follow:
- #cdnpse (Canadian post-secondary education)
- #histedchat (Twitter chat that happens every two weeks on Wednesdays at 8:30 pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (for us Canadians, that’s Tuesdays at 6:30 am EST or 3:30 PST).
There are also some people on Twitter you can follow for discussions about pedagogy. Here are some of my favourites, in no particular order.
- Natalie M. Houston (writes for ProfHacker): @nmhouston
- Kevin Gannon (The Tattooed Professor) @TheTattooedProf
- ProfHacker @ProfHacker
- Mary Bart (managing editor, Faculty Focus) @facultyfocus
- Barbi Honeycutt @BarbiHoneycutt
- Raul Pacheco-Vega @raulpacheco
- Liesel Knaack @LieselKnaack
- The Teaching Professor @teachprof
- Inside Higher Ed @insidehighered
So there you have it, my guide to teaching and learning in higher education on the web. This guide is of course in no way comprehensive, simply a reflection of the resources that I’ve found most useful. Have you used any of these sites before? Do you have any recommendations to add to the list? Let me know in the comments below! And don’t forget to check back on Sunday for a brand new roundup!