In On Christian Teaching, author David I. Smith asks, “If teaching is a complex design process fitted to a context, what are the features of YOUR particular context that you should take into account as you plan?”
In response to Smith’s prompt, I sat down and made a list of what it’s like to teach adults pursuing graduate degrees in a primarily online asynchronous situation. Then, I realized that wasn’t quite right. That’s not enough.
Rather, I need to assess the unique context each semester, each week, each day, with each student. Context is never the same, no matter how thinly we crop the snapshots I’m comparing.
For example, when the Spring semester started, I had no idea that domestic terrorists would storm Washington, D.C. No one saw a historical storm coming to Texas nor the ensuing collapse of the state’s basic infrastructure. Needs truly varied week to week.
To some extent, this truth is the same with each iteration of a course. It’s always different. The unexpected events may not be as serious in nature for all students as they were this semester. However, context always changes.
My lesson from Smith’s prompt is that teaching design is an active and interactive process. If I’m doing what I did before, I’m not meeting the needs of my current students.