By ALEXANDROS VAROUTAS
A lot has changed since John Oughton began teaching in the 1980s.
“In those days what we had for media was the blackboard, a 16 millimetre projector, if you could get one and found a movie that made sense, and overhead projectors. We didn’t have podiums connected to the internet,” he said, laughing.
In the new book Higher Teaching, Beach resident Oughton helps new teachers find their feet by outlining essential skills one needs to be effective in the classroom.
The overarching theme is that everything is integrated when teaching. In other words, there’s no single technique or magic bullet that can make someone an effective teacher.
“When you start teaching you’re so overloaded with learning the curriculum and preparing classes and grading that you often don’t sit back and think ‘How does this all stick together?’”
Oughton recently retired as Professor of Learning and Teaching at Centennial College where he spent the last 10 years training the faculty in modern teaching methods, regardless of what program they were teaching.
“One week I’d be doing a workshop for people in aircraft maintenance and the next week it would be the fine arts department.”
Having started out in journalism and corporate communications, he decided to also teach part time at Sheridan College where he discovered his affinity for teaching. As he got better his focus turned away from the subject matter and more on the job itself.
Since then he’s published numerous books on teaching methods, as well as his own poetry and mystery novels.
When asked about how things have evolved since he began writing about education, one of the major changes he cited is the constant access to technology and the internet students have.
“Knowledge was mostly kept in libraries in universities” he said. “You wanted something, you went and read a reference book. But now knowledge is all over the place.”
Looking forward, he predicts that gamification and virtual reality will play a major role in classrooms.
But even with more technology coming out every year, he’s also quick to mention that there are some places where face-to-face learning can’t be replaced, such as when students are learning interpersonal communication skills.
This is where the human element comes in and will always be needed.
For Oughton, teaching is a craft, and like any other craft, you can spend a lifetime perfecting it.
For more information on ordering his book Higher Teaching, please go to https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/higher-teaching-a-handbook-for/9781771835954-item.html