Monday, June 18, 2012

A Real Teacher

When one attends a genealogy conference in the United States the sessions are called "classes" and the presenters "teach" those classes. The use of these words from the field of education implies that the presenters have a set of skills beyond that of presenting a topic in a lecture. From my observations at the genealogy events I attend both in Australia and overseas only a small number of presenters demonstrate these skills at a high level. They may have great subject knowledge and be engaging and entertaining presenters who get their messages across but good teachers do a bit more than that. There are many great lecturers in the genealogy world but not so many great teachers.

Carol Liston at Hawkesbury
Good teachers are aware of the people in their classes; they are patient with those who do not catch on at first; they have a sort of sixth sense that allows them to adjust their lesson to suit the needs of the individuals in their classes; they are aware when someone in the class loses attention or cannot understand a concept; they respond to questions from the class as they go; they stop and emphasize or explain a point when necessary; they are willing to be interrupted: they will go off on a tangent and exploit any teachable moment that arises.

I do not expect all genealogy presenters to be good teachers but I am mightily impressed when I come across one who is as I did last week at The Hawkesbury Family History Group meeting.

Dr Carol Liston, an academic from the University of Western Sydney, spoke to our group about Accessing Land Titles records. This is a tricky subject that I have heard presented on a few occasions. Carol's presentation was excellent; she explained the topic well in simple language giving emphasis and further explanation when required. Having heard Carol's talk I think I finally get land records in NSW. The first thought I had after this event was that I had experienced good teaching at a genealogy event.

Carol is Associate Professor in History at the University of Western Sydney.  She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney. Her research and teaching cover early colonial history in New South Wales, with interests in people (convict, colonial born and free immigrant), local history, heritage and the built environment. Her particular interest is the colonial development of the County of Cumberland and the use of land records to investigate its history.

Should you have a chance to hear Carol present (teach) I recommend that you make an effort to attend. I note that Carol will be presenting the John Crowe Memorial Address and speaking about how new technology has led to the digitisation of NSW Land Title Records at  the 28th Annual Conference of the NSW & ACT Association of Family History Societies in September - this could be your chance to hear her.

Have you encountered any Good Teachers at Genealogy events?


Susan Clark said...

Great points, Jill. Yes, though not as often as I'd hope for. Many good, some great lecturers, but not many real teachers.

Of course, most of my exposure has been at national conferences where there is so little time. Truly not a hospitable environment for actual teaching.

Judy Webster said...

I would love to be able to answer questions during my talks, go off on a tangent, etc. In practice, that is rarely possible. The host (often a public library) expects me to cover the topic within an agreed time. Distractions must therefore be kept to a minimum. I once went to a talk about '17th, 18th and 19th century sources' where the speaker ran out of time before getting to the 19th century. The audience was understandably very unhappy!

jennyalogy said...

I've heard Carol do that talk before and she really is excellent. My first thought was that you could tell that she was an experienced uni lecturer, and then I remembered some of my lecturers... they weren't all good, by Carol certainly was.


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