Sharing TPS Drafts & Feedback

Gina's draft TPS

Gina's draft TPS

by Gina Bennett -
Number of replies: 3

Like Hillarie, said... feels a bit scary to put this out there. I found this exercise hard to do -- although I'm starting with a TPS I completed only a year or 2 ago, I don't have a specific teaching job right now, nor am I applying for one so it feels kind of vague. I struggled especially with the last bit, trying to mention something about theories or themes that have informed my philosophy without going into too much detail. I'm keen for feedback!


Teaching is powerful. I haven't always been comfortable about that power; over the years, my role as a teacher has shortened in stature & blurred somewhat. I no longer seek to 'change people's lives,' but instead to help people change their own lives.

People pursue learning - consciously or subconsciously - because they want to become something more and I am drawn to teaching as a way to accompany the learner in the becoming process. My skill as a teacher lies in not just instruction (where needed), but also in listening, reflecting, supporting, and assisting the learner in clarification of goals. I enjoy doing this work and I do it compulsively with just about anybody I meet: students (of course), friends and family, the young woman bagging my purchases in the grocery store.

When working with students, I want to understand something about what they seek through learning. I want to develop our mutually trusting relationship to the point where they reveal some deep curiousity or articulate a need to act, serve, or to *be* differently in the world. Once we reach that point, my role morphs into something more like a waitress: 'How can I help you today?' 'What information sources can I steer you towards?' 'Do you want skills with that?'

Although I am a compulsive adult educator who will attempt to practise on just about anyone, I am especially drawn to those outside the traditional academy: those who never completed any formal program, learned to do math, or even to speak fluent English. Those who do not think of themselves as academic material, or perhaps long ago gave up any dreams requiring formal education. These are my People and I am drawn to them professionally like a moth to a lamp.

I believe education -- changing your life through learning -- is a fundamental human right. (Probably this is why I'm so drawn to the Open Education movement.) And I understand that learning changes not only individual lives, but societal directions as well. My perspective on teaching, learning, and society has been profoundly influenced by the concept of border pedagogy, as put forward by Henry Giroux, and developed more broadly by others (see e.g. this piece by Tom Heaney). In many ways, I see teaching as "border work" in which we help learners gain access to desired opportunities, goals, and communities of practice. 

In reply to Gina Bennett

Re: Gina's draft TPS

by Sue Hellman -

Hi Gina, 

First I want to thank you for making time to respond to Leonne's first draft. I found your comments spot on -- very similar to what I'd have said, but because you have a personal relationship they'd be easier to take on board/

That's been my dilemma with this peer review process -- how to make my comments useful without going overboard. I spent the night creating a checklist to help me depersonalize the process a little, but then I decided that if you writers had the courage to share, I could have the same courage to respond.

I think the sentence "I no longer seek to 'change people's lives', but instead to help people change their own lives." is very powerful. I also love the waitress comparison. It made me smile and showing that you have a sense of humour is great in a TPS. That entire paragraph exemplifies how to show the reader what you do and how you do it instead of using general statements to describe it -- again spot on. That's what you need more of. 

You might ask yourself what could you strip away from the other paragraphs without losing your main idea? What can you live without in this piece?  Think of this like moving from a big house with loads of storage space into a tiny home -- what will you take with you? What would you have to leave behind -- however reluctantly? 

Then make a list of all the things you do to help your students achieve that wonderful goal, cluster them into 3-4 key practices and develop an example to show how you make the magic happen. Examples could include teaching and assessment techniques, an incident that happened in class, your content design, use of technology (if you do), the way you interact with the learners -- as long as they illustrate how you and your students achieve that goal of learning to change their own lives. If you can't think of an example or want an alternative technique, you can back up your choice with a brief summary of some influential reading or research. Showing that your decisions are evidence based is important to many TPS readers. It gives your writing a 'scholarly edge' :-)  Your reference to 'border pedagogy' is a case in point, but I could use more -- perhaps a definition, an example, and how it furthers your goal -- to understand what it is and how it underpins your work. 

Finally try to revise in sections -- each with a sub-theme and adding to a bigger picture of how you meet that goal. I might reserve the conclusion for writing about how you'd like to refine or expand your techniques in future. 

The only other advice I have is to be sure of punctuation and sentence structure in your final version, esp. if you're going to include it in a portfolio or submit it as part of some sort of formal application. You use rather a lot of single quotes, like I do. You want to be sure that complies with the writing style conventions on your campus.

So there, I've done it. I hope you find the suggestions useful. I'd be privileged to read your next draft.


PS Although I didn't fill in the checklist, you might find it useful so I've attached it below. 

In reply to Sue Hellman

Re: Gina's draft TPS

by Gina Bennett -

Thanks so much for your detailed & helpful feedback, Sue! I realized from the start that this draft was too general & vague -- your observations would certainly help me to tighten it up, drop some parts & flesh out others. Organizing my thoughts into sections with clear themes & sub-themes would definitely improve it, wouldn't it?? Good observation!  

The more I think about this process, however, the more I think audience is critical. I'd need to know who I was writing for in order to revise it properly. If I were applying for a job back in the ABE math classroom, I would include examples, assessments, & key events to illustrate how I work in that environment. But if I were applying for a curriculum development opportunity, perhaps helping a group of faculty to incorporate more varied online practices, I would certainly choose different examples & events to communicate my philosophy. And I'd choose different ones again if that same curriculum gig were to be delivered to a group of community developers in Kenya. 

I'm reminded of a workbook or guide I read some time ago (no idea of the reference at this late date), about how to develop an academic portfolio. The guide recommended first putting together a "portmanteau" portfolio: a collection of certificates, letters of recommendation, assessments you'd created, results of your teaching evaluations, notes from students, you name it. Then, when you are required to apply for a job or otherwise describe your teaching skill, you pick & choose items from your portmanteau to fit the bill. I wonder, for those of us with a hodge-podge of education-related experience, if such an approach might help when putting together a TPS... separate sections to fit different educational work & roles, from which you can pick & choose when you have a specific teaching job or audience in mind. What do you think? 

Regardless of audience, you've given me an excellent overview of the level of detail, organization, and style that might be expected in a formal TPS. Thanks again for all the work you put into this (for all of us!)

In reply to Gina Bennett

Re: Gina's draft TPS

by Sue Hellman -

You've got it exactly right, Gina. People think they can write a one size fits all TPS, but it just doesn't work unless you're always applying for similar work. Some people are like that. They do essentially the same job wherever they go for their whole careers (especially in high school math departments). I may want to borrow some of this reflection if I do the course again -- if that's OK with you. 

I was going to suggest somewhere that people imagine a reader, but so many stated that they wanted to do relective pieces for portfolio purposes that I chose not to. I think there might be something to that. In a reflective piece you would want to share a smattering of all different experience that illustrate who you are as a teacher. You could pick 1 big signature idea and show how that is expressed in different contexts. The result would be a useful document to keep as a starting place for any application, but it would also be a snapshot of you right now. 

This course has been a labour of love & learning for me. If you want to keep sharing, you can reach me at once these forums have closed.