Finding your strengths as a teacher

strength-pic-smOne of my first experiences as a student of an online classroom was dismal. The professor had no idea how to teach online and was unfamiliar with the learning management system (i.e. Moodle, Canvas, Blackboard, etc.). Rather than trying to get help with the technology, he did what he thought was right and even after being told by members of the class it wasn’t, he continued as if nothing was wrong. He did say after I e-mailed him about the reason we were not responding to his messages, was because he posted them on chat and chat was set up to be available only as long as you were in it. Once you left, it was over and none of us could comment. Since we were not aware he was “chatting” it was impossible to respond. I explained that he needed to post in the forum area. I’m sure there were many people in the school willing to help him, but it didn’t appear that he asked. The outcome was a black hole. We had no idea what we were supposed to be doing and when. Luckily, several of us had been in previous classes together and started e-mailing back in forth, eventually we started e-mailing as a group with the whole class.

I did learn a few things from the class. One was that just because you teach a course successfully face to face did not mean that you could throw it online and expect the same results. The other was the importance of communicating with the class. We gave him feedback. He just didn’t listen. He told me that he taught the course very successfully face to face and seemed baffled that it didn’t translate well. I have no doubt he did teach the course successfully face to face. It would probably be a good course online. It just needed to be adapted to online and he needed to adapt to the needs of online teaching/training and his own particular skills.

A good place to start when you are teaching, either face to face or online or a combination of both is to figure out what you do best and use it to enhance your course. There are a few great ways to find your strengths through a quick assessment. The first, is the book, Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Roth and Gallup. It has a token in the back of the book that allows you to take the strengths assessment online. It comes in hardcover and Kindle edition. The Kindle edition will e-mail you the token. They are both under $20. Do not buy it used. The token for the assessment is only good for one use. Another option is the VIA Character Strengths Survey. The survey is free, and takes approximately 10 minutes. You must do a quick sign in (name, password) to take the survey. The VIA survey was created at Penn State and was peer reviewed.  The Strength Finder survey was created by Gallup, which is considered a leader in this type of survey.

Strength Finder 2.0

VIA

Work strengths Spiritual strengths
Work talent and skills Character strengths
Top 5 strengths* Top 24 strengths*
Not peer reviewed Peer reviewed
*Both will give you a more detailed report but at a cost. The VIA is around $20 but the Gallup report is expensive at 6-34 strengths for $74 (if you already bought the book and have the first 5 strengths or 1-34 for strengths $89. The $79 and $84 option get you a more detailed report.

My suggestion is to take both the Strength Finder 2.0 that comes with the book and the free VIA survey and compare. I took both and it gave me a surprising insight. On both, my love of learning came up either first or second. That sounds good, but I realized as I read both that it was also a weakness. I enjoy learning so much that I can go off on tangents and take too much time away from my original task causing me delays and anxiety. Knowing this helped me to pay more attention when I started down a path that took me away from my original intent and helped me to put it aside until a later date when I had the time.

Acknowledging your weaknesses can be a bit painful at first, but once you do, you can find ways to work around them, often utilizing your strengths. For example, if you score low on creativity but high on teamwork, leverage your good will with teammates to find ways to get creative with your course. Accepting your own strengths and weaknesses will help you to see your students’ as well and help them to utilize their strengths to overcome their weaknesses, creating a better learning experience for all.

Until next week…

Faye

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