Teaching What You Don’t Know

teaching what you dont knowThe need that this book attempts to fill arises from college teachers often having to teach courses outside their core expertise and there being very little discussion and guidance in the academy about how to go about teaching so.  The author Therese Huston, a cognitive psychologist who directs the Center for Teaching and Learning at Seattle University, provides some valuable tips gleaned from her conversations with 35 faculty members who have taught courses despite being “content novices.”

I picked up this book because I am preparing to teach a first year seminar next semester.  I found encouraging to read in the book that content novice instructors may make for better teachers than content experts, because the content novices are less likely to be afflicted by  the knowledge curse.  An advice from the book that I found most helpful was that of moving from “Teaching as Telling” to “Teaching as Creating a Learning Environment.”  Teaching as Telling leads the content novice teacher to feel strained and anxious.  In addition it has been shown by research to be not as effective as Teaching as Creating a Learning Environment.  Her book is filled with a lot of examples about how to do Teaching as Creating a Learning Environment.  Along with others by cognitive psychologists that I have recently read, this book has led in me a newfound appreciation for the pedagogical utility of cognitive psychology.

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