Podcast #81

Kevin Gannon is the director of the Center of Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, and he’s also a Professor of History. Many of our listeners may know him from his articles in the Chronicle of Higher Ed or his popular Twitter feed where he writes about teaching, dogs, race, politics, and seemingly whatever else is on his mind. In this episode we dig deep on Kevin’s personal teaching journey and learn how he came to be the teacher he is today and what kind of teacher he aspires to be in the future.

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Show Notes

0:00 Intro

1:21 Welcoming Kevin Gannon. Why is there never a center for competency in teaching? The students who come to office hours often don’t need much help. Students who don’t care.

4:50 Students who influence you? What happens when you’re the youngest person in the class–younger than all your students? Learning from adults. Teaching the middle ages through Game of Thrones. Or Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

9:11 Hearing the students’ voices. The Zen idea of the “beginner’s mind.” Doug’s search for the perfect explanation–which never means the same thing to the student. And we’re not like most of our students, because we were the invested ones.

11:48 Kevin’s from a family of teachers and wanted to be a teacher since high school. Observing high school teaching cured him of part of that. Adjuncting Communications 101 to get rich. But now Kevin works with middle and high school students around Des Moines.

15:47 The documentary 13th (2016) and the prison system in America as ‘slavery by other means.’ College and high school students find Kevin online, and he Skypes into classrooms, and more. History as something more than names and dates.

20:11 Coming into someone else’s learning space. Knowing who the learner is. Vs. thinking of our students in terms of deficits. Students as knowledge creators. Active learning doesn’t just mean being active: It means making knowledge, and students shouldn’t have to wait until senior year to do it. The freshman major course is a gateway, not a death march.

24:20 Working your way through school as a pinsetter mechanic in a bowling alley. Kevin didn’t read a book and do quizzes. But do avoid running 220 volts through your body. Active learning also means a variety of ways of learning.

27:50 Role models for high school and college. It matters that the teacher likes the students and enjoys teaching. Just because you enjoy a good lecture doesn’t mean you can do one. Letting the subject matter be complex.

32:32 Where is there room for improvement? Where do you want to be in ten years? Teaching one class a year but trying NOT to make it a masterpiece. Still relying on lectures, however short. Getting quicker at giving feedback. Giving feedback on writing by focusing it on one area.

40:20 Incorporating student reflection. Asking students how they might improve–and following through. Letting students earn back points on an exam by identifing what they did that did NOT work. Helping students get over the idea that “time on task” determines learning. The New Science of Learning: How to Learn in Harmony With Your Brain by Doyle and Zakrajsek

44:03 A teaching mistake involving a table. But it did set the tone. Thanks and signing off.