"I worked on my writing and received valuable feedback from diverse viewpoints. I learned that there are many things common in teaching across different disciplines. Most important of all, it provided an opportunity to share experiences, exchange ideas, read books, and understand the significance of our voice in teaching and writing."
What I learned from Voice Lessons
I was quite excited when I received an electronic mail from Andy regarding my application for Voice Lesson. He asked me to arrange a time to meet with him and Margrethe. Before I applied for the workshop, I thought about what benefits I would get from a workshop attended by people mostly from the humanities and social sciences. I would have nevertheless the opportunity to learn about various teaching methods used by other professors with whom I share the same audience. We get tangled up with our daily chores so deeply that we don't even visit with our colleagues within our discipline to share experiences and exchange ideas to make us better teachers.
After several days into Voice Lessons, I found myself deeply immersed into assignments, enjoying discussions, reading a book just about writing to teach, participating in writing groups, and hearing the first time about novel teaching methods all of which provided me with new tools to scrutinize the multi-dimensional abstract process called teaching. Teaching is a multidimensional phenomenon which, when projected to different directions, becomes teaching in a specific discipline. It is complex; yet, it is simple. It is discipline dependent; yet, it is universal.
I have learned a great deal about how other teachers react, prepare, think, and grade. Most importantly, I see that there are more similarities in teaching methodologies across various disciplines then there are differences. The common themes are to engage students in learning, guide them to learn through research and reading, provide them with choices for their careers, and give them the tools to write and communicate.
In addition to my desire to learn variety of viewpoints in teaching and writing, I have also joined this workshop to bring a scientist's perspective. I will use multiple-choice test writing as an example to show how challenging teaching physics can be. This may sound to some as surprising for many think that teaching science consists of manipulating symbols and numbers. As it happens to be the case in other disciplines, teaching abstract concepts in physics also calls for writing, drawing, and imagining. Symbols and mathematical framework are merely representations of the abstractions. In the end, one still needs to write up the results in an organized fashion called report. In many occasions, these writings, although may include symbols and abstract representations, can be quite intriguing to read and contain rather eloquent styles.
In my experience as a student in traditional physics classes, the emphasis wasn't on the writing component for we had to spend a lot of time to understand and solve problems. I have become more aware of the importance of effective writing only after I was challenged to write technical papers, proposals, recommendation letters, and home-made test questions. Writing should be an integral part of any discipline for everybody needs one time or another to convey their message with clarity in order to accomplish their professional goals. Voice Lessons has been a great experience for me; I met teachers from diverse disciplines, I learned from them, and I got valuable feedback for my own writing.