“While we teach, we learn”*

I was just 24 when I started teaching at one of South Africa’s biggest universities, Wits in Johannesburg. Not only did I find myself in the big city for the first time, I was also confronted by demanding and judgmental stares of students just a few years younger than I was at the time. There they were expecting grey haired, sage-looking men in faded suits to give their classes and instead they got me.

Pictured: Joanna Azar and Grisel Salazar
Joanna Azar asks about experiential learning. Photo by Dinesh Balliah.

I had never trained as a teacher, nor was the art of it something I considered a particular talent of mine. My grooming in an excellent undergraduate department meant that I knew what I had to teach but I had to learn, very quickly, how to teach it.

If I look around the table at my fellow SUSI scholars, I doubt any of us were trained to teach. Instead, we learned by doing, through trial and error, through introspection and reflection, all of which describes the process of experiential learning. This pedagogic approach was the focus of our class on Tuesday, June 25, led by Dr Marianne Barrett.

The class and its guest speakers, Dr. Sada Reed and Prof .Mari Koerner, shared their insights into modern day higher education pedagogies and in particular the teaching hospital model as a form of experiential learning. Both presentations forced us to confront our own challenges and to consider possible strategies for dealing with these.

Dr. Sada Reed
Dr Sada Reed spoke to the SUSI scholars about effective teaching and learning strategies. Photo by Dinesh Balliah

A presentation by Kristin Gilger on the characteristics of Generation Z left me feeling a little immobilized by the task of not only educating but also entertaining my students. But not one to shy away from a challenge, I, and my colleagues, walked away from class having realized that as journalism takes on a new shape, so too must our approaches to teaching. 

The experiential teaching model is not just something we Journalism educators use in our classrooms, it is something we as teachers must continue to engage in.

*The headline borrows from a Latin proverb attributed to Seneca