Checking the Oil

Recently in our GRAD 602 course we have engaged in some thinking about the meaning and use of the Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI). I’ve completed the TPI before, and have found it useful for reflecting on my own beliefs about teaching, as well as for facilitating discussion among faculty members who are interested in doing the same. I see the TPI as a reasonably good method of “checking the oil” to get a reading on how we see ourselves as teachers across the five different perspectives. Upon completing the TPI, most individuals tend to have one perspective that is more dominant that others.My scores (pictured above) indicated a tendency toward the “Developmental” perspective (39), followed by the “Apprenticeship” (33) and “Nurturing” (33) perspectives, and then less so the “Transmission” (29) and “Social Reform” (28) perspectives. I try to look at these results holistically – in a collective sense – of my perspectives on teaching. It remains a meaningful exercise for me to revisit the TPI from time to time…and to reflect on my own perspectives, as well as engage in conversation with colleagues about how they see themselves as depicted by their scores. It is a great tool to facilitate some discussion about teaching.

There were a few things that stuck out for me this time around that I’m thinking about in a different light than I recall previously. While I see myself as holding some commitment to the “Social Reform” perspective, I was surprised by two things: 1) It was the perspective with the lowest score for me, and 2) No one in the course logged the “Social Reform” perspective as their highest score…in fact for many it was also the lowest. Curious? I don’t know…

The description of the “Social reform” perspective reads:

From the Social Reform point of view, the object of teaching is the collective rather than the individual. Good teachers awaken students to values and ideologies that are embedded in texts and common practices within their disciplines. Good teachers challenge the status quo and encourage students to consider how learners are positioned and constructed in particular discourses and practices. To do so, they analyze and deconstruct common practices for ways in which such practices perpetuate conditions that are unacceptable. Class discussion is focused less on how knowledge has been created, and more by whom and for what purposes. Texts are interrogated for what is said and what is not said; what is included and what is excluded; who is represented and who is omitted from the dominant discourse. Students are encouraged to take critical stances to give them power to take social action to improve their own lives and the lives of others. Critical deconstruction, though central to this view, is not an end in itself.

Well now…I’ve tended to be an advocate of the critique of education (and schooling) as essentially functioning to create and maintain the status quo…a site of cultural reproduction. In fact, I’d like to think that in my own practice as a teacher I endeavor to act in ways consistent with the “Social Reform” perspective in the TPI. So with this being the lowest score for me…it certainly gave me pause. I’m reflecting on this result and asking questions about what I’m doing and perhaps more importantly – not doing. Should there be more overt interrogation of higher education itself within a course like GRAD 602? Do the design decisions, assignments, reading selections,and practices that are baked into the course encourage students to “take critical stances to give them power to take social action to improve their own lives and the lives of others?” I’m not sure…I can say that I’m not often very explicit about this…and I’m wondering if I should be. So, I’m going to need to live with this one for a bit, think, and engage with my teacher colleagues about their views…in this way I hope to honor the idea of teaching as community property.