Smart teaching largely involves the organization of teaching and learning activities with the help of software tools. In broader terms, smart teaching is a way of professionalizing the teaching and learning experience. It does not mean that traditional teaching is unprofessional and that teachers lack in their jobs, but rather, smart teaching provides a platform that supports the profession. In established professions such as engineering and medicine, there are common features that professionals in these fields share. For instance, there are formal qualifications that members of these professionals seek that are related to their practices. There are also tools enabling their work and a body of knowledge informing them about the work. These professionals share language and values that are developed and constantly revised as required by the members of their profession. The regulatory frameworks with standards and policies exist to oversee the practice in the professions.
Issues with Traditional Teaching
Traditional teaching in schools and universities does little to ensure that it qualifies the above criteria as in other professions. For instance, although a majority of higher education teachers do possess some qualifications, these are always, if not, related to their teaching areas instead of having qualifications in good practices in teaching. It is also inevitable that teachers might not possess a body of knowledge that revolves around teaching. While there are a number of tools in the education industry such as software tools, the tools fail to have a robust relationship to teaching and learning and such a relationship does not exist in a way agreed by all teachers. With a lack of a shared body of knowledge in the teaching profession, it is impossible for teachers to express shared standards and values as pertain to teaching and learning. The regulation of teaching and learning is seldom self-organizing or self-governing. Systems managing teachers and managers speak different views with teachers being at micro-levels and managers taking the macro roles of controlling the teaching environment. The regulation of teaching and learning also fails largely as it is not driven by the teaching profession but by external organizations and agencies. Smart teaching addresses the above issues common in traditional teaching in a number of ways.
Strategies for Smart Teaching
- Smart Tools and Collaboration
The strategy recognizes that a number of university teachers are poorly trained to teach and develop rather collaborative activities around the teaching profession. This collaboration allows teachers to share their knowledge regarding best teaching practices. The strategy also puts in place research-based knowledge about good practices in teaching into tools that teachers and learners can both utilize. In general, these tools make teachers and learners become smarter hence the name “Smart Tools.” In medical and other professions such as engineering, decision support systems are used in decision-making, but teaching is largely lagging behind.
- Reinforce performance management with promotions
In ensuring that collaboration works and counters issues in the teaching profession, it is necessary to embed collaborative activities within the teachers’ contracts and duty statements. This will reinforce collaboration with promotions and performance management. The collaboration will thus become a standard to directly promote and reward teachers instead of using a more individualistic model as it is currently being done.
- Faculty members from all levels are to be incorporated into the course design team
People appointed to work on course design should include faculty members from all levels, including the Executive Dean and the support staff. The people will be engaged actively in real-time with course design, teaching, and learning that takes place within the programs. This will avoid the split between macro-management and micro-teaching within faculties.
- Making course design and delivery seamless
Smart tools in smart teaching ensure that collaborative work functions in both course design and delivery, thus providing the needed real-time feedback information required to show students and teachers how the courses are being designed and delivered and their performance. The tools allow the modifications to be done as problems are identified.
- Embed research into teaching and learning
Smart tools ensure that research is perfectly embedded in teaching and learning. For instance, lecture smart tools and group work are designed for teachers and students to use. These tools structure the learning process in order to match what research claims to work. In this manner, teachers devoid of a teaching research background will find it seamless in designing and delivering learning experiences that are not only effective but also powerful.
Smart teaching addresses the challenges in traditional teaching and reflects the characteristics in other professions such as medicine and engineering. Smart teaching will integrate technology, organizational change, and collaboration as a way of having a systemic approach to teaching and learning experiences. Technology is only applied in areas where it brings value in integration in order to personalize teaching and learning processes and make them responsive to the teachers’ and students’ needs.