We worked on the new curricula for over a year, and got them completed in mid-March. Then came the coronavirus, which forced us to overhaul our teaching in a single weekend.
Most of us have learned to teach through imitation. We have imitated the ways of teaching we were used to as students. We have gotten accustomed to classrooms, personal presence, group work, detailed guidance in close contact, and face-to-face interaction. We have been used to dressing up teaching with specific clothing.
Now the appearance of teaching has suddenly changed. Necessity forced us to participate in a vast pedagogical experiment. Classrooms disappeared, exams were called off, and close guidance vanished. Face-to-face interaction was pixelized, also among students.
It was as if teaching were undressed. Although some teachers have practiced online instruction for years, for most of us, the change meant undressing teaching of its everyday clothes, the practices and traditions that had been defaults for decades.
The situation is challenging for students and teachers alike, but perhaps such undressing contains positive aspects as well.
Indeed, undressing forces us to take a closer look at the essence of teaching.
Online teaching makes us concretize our teaching philosophies.
It raises questions. I can get material distributed quickly, but what else should I do as a teacher? What are students now doing to learn? How can I best support their learning processes? What, ultimately, is the essence of teaching?
These are difficult questions, and they must now be answered with regrettable haste, though asking these questions is useful.
Indeed, asking forces us to revisit pedagogical research and education. Pedagogical research has always tried to observe teaching in its most essential form and attempted to identify favorable elements for learning in different practical settings.
Pedagogical education, in turn, has put research knowledge into practice. However, a challenge has been the accustomed practices; pedagogical experiments have often remained just that – experiments. But now that we cannot rely on our habits, the situation generates a natural demand for pedagogical education and its research-based foundation.
At the moment, we have little experience in how well our remote teaching has succeeded. But because the exceptional situation forces us to pose the right questions and look at teaching from a fresh perspective, I believe that eventually, when this unusual situation is over, the quality of our teaching will have improved.
The writer is University Lecturer at the Department of Physics and Vice head of the department, responsible for communications and teaching.
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