• Blogging and teaching

    Blogging may be a bit lighter this week, as I am in semester-review mode–grading papers, Final exams, honors theses and the like.

    After a little introspection, I now realize that this Fall has seen a tremendous change in my teaching approach to my Intro to the U.S. Health Care System course, driven by this blog. This last time I taught this course was Fall 2008 and I didn’t have a blog then. (It is actually hard for me to remember not having a blog, even though I haven’t had one for the majority of my professional career). The existence of the blog produced two major differences:

    • I used the blog as a major resource for the class [a great benefit]
    • I found it much harder (impossible) to hide my views about many things from my students because of the blog [a mixed bag; I worry about this]

    In the past, I prided myself that students could not determine my personal views on many issues, but that proved to be impossible this semester due to the blog. Even though I believe I am typically evidence-based in my blogging, I realize there are often other interpretations and certainly different degrees of focus that others see in the same body of evidence. On many occasions, students would come in office hours and ask about a blog post, an op-ed that I had written or my book and ask “what do you think we should do? Why do you think this?”

    On the whole, I think this semester was more interesting and engaging, but I do worry that my personal views were too central in the course; the goal is to get the students to think about what they think we should do, and I always pushed them in that direction. Maybe I was kidding myself in the past and my views were just as clear to the students, or maybe blogging has really changed my relationship with the students in my classes. I am unsure.


    • I suspect that if it was an issue, you would have heard from some parent by now. Besides, everyone knows you pointy heads are all liberals.


    • You raise a very important pedagogical issue here. My son only had one teacher his entire high school experience whose political point of view he was unable to discern. As a student who held a minority point of view, he greatly appreciated this.
      On the other hand, it would be very unusual for a teacher not to have a political point of view, and when it is out in the open, students can keep it in mind when assessing the presented material. As you state, even the same evidence can lead to differing conclusions.

      I think for the college level, I would lean toward erring on the side of letting them know where you stand while at the same time doing your best to be even-handed in your presentation. The best way to fully understand, develop and/or revise a point of view is to fully understand its critics. Besides, providing methods of critical analysis will be a more important teaching goal than passing on any specific fund of knowledge.