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Never teach alone

Teaching is a solitary profession. Obviously students are involved and social processes are needed for discussion on important topics, but the *act* of teaching is solitary. Part of my interest in open online courses is the prospect of the internet thinning classroom walls and reducing barriers to teaching and learning opportunities. Educators need to get past the isolating view of teaching as a one-to-many activity.

As I’m transitioning into my new role at Athabasca as a faculty member in the Centre for Distance Education, I’m reminded of how much of the teaching process requires the educator to think and act alone. In the late 90′s/early 2000′s, while at Red River College, I found the biggest benefit of blogging was that I could connect with others who were exploring edtech and new pedagogies. Today, with the availability of numerous social media tools, educators have many opportunities to collaborate and share teaching activities.

There is simply no compelling reason to teach alone. If you’re teaching intro to psychology, find a fellow prof at a different university and teach together. If you’re teaching math for grade 8 students, find another math teacher and share teaching. The educators and the students all benefit.

Open online courses are great for the multi-teacher voice. I’ve made it a habit of dragging poor hapless souls along on any courses that I teach (David Wiley’s open online course takes the same “thou shalt teach with others” approach). Frictions periodically arise, but generally, the experience of bringing together classrooms (or just opening them up) has produced richer learning experiences. Most importantly, I still see social interactions between individuals that first connected in CCK08.


  1. Stuart Berry wrote:

    I think the corollary to this is “never learn alone”. In my face-to-face world I tell my students that there are as many different understandings of what just happened in this classroom as there are students and all of you need to find ways to share your understanding of what just took place. In my social constructionist world-view (in deference to my friend Marguerite) I believe we need to encourage and support the learning process in the same way you speak of teaching.

    Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink
  2. Hi George, May I borrow yours on teaching and learning? Open learning would assist us in open teaching, in embracing openness to engagement and interaction, in getting feedback, and in continuous learning through critical thinking and reflection. Yes, never teach (and learn) alone makes meaningful learning, when immersed in an open space/platform.

    Saturday, September 1, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink
  3. Rosa A. Ojeda Ayala wrote:

    I never teach alone, George! My students “teach” along side me!

    Saturday, September 1, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Permalink
  4. Rosa A. Ojeda Ayala wrote:

    Oh! Congratulations on your new appointment as faculty member of Athabasca. Welcome to the good life!

    Saturday, September 1, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink
  5. José Mota wrote:

    Good advice. Things would be so much easier and more interesting if we, as teachers, cooperated more.

    Congrats on your new position :-) .

    Sunday, September 2, 2012 at 7:26 am | Permalink
  6. Stuart and Rosa make great points. Learning and teaching should be a collaborative, community effort. In my own experience, I learned so much from my peers in after-class discussions and discussing classes with professors who didn’t teach the subject. I wonder though how we formalize collaborative teaching–what it would take and how it would work.

    Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 10:07 am | Permalink
  7. Nancy Adams wrote:

    I began in education long ago as a high school teacher and left that profession because it was so isolating. Truly the loneliest job I ever had. It shouldn’t be that way!

    Friday, September 7, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Permalink
  8. Lenandlar wrote:

    Thanks for making the point George. About 5 years ago, we in the Department of CS where work started “pair teaching” as an internal strategy to supplement discussions and foster collaboration among Faculty. While this is a f2f experience, we find that during many lectures, the perspectives of the 2 lecturers present is very rich and diverse and perhaps a sum greater than the individuals.

    Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 6:41 am | Permalink
  9. mmike5150 wrote:

    Teaching alone is far too common these days. It isn’t that we, as educators, do not have colleagues. But, rather, we do not have the support of our administration. Teaching without support, in my opinion, is teaching alone.

    Teaching is powerful. Teaching, knowing that you are supported by an administration who understands that you have unmotivated students…understands that the students in your class are sleeping because they were up all night taking care of their younger siblings and had to get up early enough to get that sibling to the bus…Understands that those wealthy families are often times just as ‘absent” in the lives of students as those who work 3 jobs just to keep a roof over the family.

    Blogs like this help us understand that we are NOT alone. We may feel isolated, in a room, behind closed doors. But we are not alone. We have each other. We bounce ideas off of one another. We “steal” great ideas and modify them to fit our own needs.

    Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Permalink