Forgive the over simplistic dualism of the title. Of course we can be, and almost always are (or should be), both teacher and learner at the same time. But, as a semester’s end approaches and a break is in sight, it’s time to consider how to spend that now vacant “teaching” time.
Here are a few things to try:
Attend a lecture on teaching and learning. It really doesn’t matter if it’s one you can attend in-person, or view virtually (live or recorded - see youtube). The point is that you identify a topic that looks interesting, a respected speaker (either in the field of education, or in a specific discipline with a focus on teaching in the discipline), and expose yourself to a new idea, new research, or new approach about teaching. Don’t hesitate to engage even if the focus is on an academic level other than college-level. Some incredible insights can be gathered from what we know about early childhood learning that should inform a great deal of college teaching.
Read a scholarly article on teaching and learning. If you are not already aware, every discipline has some kind of discipline-specific journal focused on teaching (here’s a good list to get started searching). At the very least, prominent journals in the field will feature teaching-related articles. The Center for Teaching Learning distills much of the general literature for you via our Resources section, and other sites like Faculty Focus provide nice venues through which to get a sense of the recent scholarship on teaching and learning generally. But, your discipline is another helpful source of knowledge, insight, and inspiration.
View a TED Talk. Time-strapped? Nothing to spare, but like the idea of being the learner for a moment? Online videos like TED Talks provide a library of very short video lecturettes on a range of topics - many of which are on teaching and education (Sir Ken Robinson’s are some of my personal favorites). Check out a quick Taylor Mali spoken poem. Whether it’s for 60 seconds, or 60 minutes, every moment as a learner is beneficial.