Are Teaching Methods Important?

Several months ago I noticed what I thought was an interesting question on the LinkedIn, Professional & Organizational Development Network in Higher Education, There Barbi Honeycutt, Ph.D. asked, “Why are graduate students required to complete a course in research methods but not in teaching methods?” This question really struck a chord with me having worked in higher education. Dr. Honeycutt is right; the emphasis is extensively on the subject content – which is to be expected. But what is really amazing, the system seems to ignore the fact that, at least in higher education another major component of the process is to impart that knowledge on to the students. It’s as if, because you have so much knowledge you will be able to just tell others all of the important facts and they will be expected to learn from you.

Taking this concept a bit further, outside of higher education and into the association and the private sector - my observation is that so many subject matter experts in all fields are so zoned into the content that they often forget that delivery is part of the communication process. On those occasions where industry experts want to share their knowledge they fall into the same trap. The result, the message is often lost in the research and content. The content, the organization and development of the content, and delivery are all key elements of Instruction. However, content research is not course development, which is not delivery. Each step requires separate yet inter-related skills. You can be highly effective at one or two of the elements, yet miss a third and the course can be a dud.

Adding to the complexities of instruction today is the online instructor category. This requires yet a very different set of skill requirements. Instruction online today is at a minimum - a blend of on-site classroom with an online components, writing skills and leading online group discussions.