When Mike Green asked me to write for this week's ACTL newsletter, my mind returned to a discussion I had this summer with a former student as he began to prepare for his first-year as a college professor. Our discussion centered on several of his questions. The two most difficult questions were: “How do you know what to teach in class, how do you know how to teach it, and why?” The second was “How do know what did and didn't work, and what do you do about it?” Not easy questions. Although the questions are interrelated, I would like to share my response to his second question with you today.
All teachers, sooner or later, get to know the joy of teaching — that time during a class when the light goes on inside the students' heads as the concept finally comes through. We all also know the exact opposite — those times when the classroom is lifeless, painful and/or confused, and we, as professors, seem powerless to do anything about it. Those are the days when we ask ourselves just why the heck we went into this profession!
Wes, one of my very first teaching mentors, always insisted that I should never do anything in the classroom without a solid pedagogical reason. In addition, he insisted that I must continually evaluate what is going on in the classroom and keep copious notes about my teaching progress, or lack thereof. This process is what I would like to share with you today.
Wes introduced the grid below and the accompanying continual classroom evaluation process to me as I prepared for a career as a college professor.
I start the five steps of this continual evaluation process before the first lecture of every class every term, and the process continues throughout the term. (1) In the horizontal box at the top of the grid I write down the qualities of the very best teachers I had during my entire educational career as well as the qualities of those excellent teachers whom I have had the opportunity to know and admire during my teaching career. (2) In the left square of the second row, I list all of the main objectives that I want to accomplish in that particular class that term. (In addition to listing these objectives, I make it a point of sharing all of these objectives with my students during the first day of class.) (3) The contents of the right box in that same row will be completed as the term progresses. This box will contain the biggest disappointments from that term. (4) The contents of the left box on the bottom row will also be completed as the term progresses. This box will contain things that I will do differently the next time I teach this particular class in order to eliminate those “biggest disappointments.” (5) The last box remains empty until the entire term is completed.
Once the term is completed and I have had time to reflect on how the class went, and how my students perceived the class and my performance in it, I then turn to this empty box in the bottom row. Within this box I list those pedagogical tools that I would like to learn more about and possibly consider incorporating into my class in order to: (a) maximize the number of students that meet or exceed my course objectives; (b) eliminate those disappointments I experienced during the term; and (c) improve the overall quality of the course.
Throughout my teaching career I have found that this continual evaluation process keeps me focused on my course objectives, forces me to continually evaluate my teaching throughout the term, and forces me to go back and evaluate what did and did not work during the term. This process also forces me to evaluate my current teaching pedagogies and consider adopting new teaching pedagogies the next time that I teach this particular class. It was this continual evaluation process that first made me consider the utilization of Problem-Based Learning in my classes over 20 years ago. This evaluation process has also helped me fine - tune the teaching pedagogies I have used and continue to utilize in my classes.
Bob Tallitsch – Department of Biology
New books are available in the Tredway Library:
Changing College Classrooms: New Teaching and Learning Strategies for an Increasingly Complex World
Call Number: Teaching LB2331 .C4543 1994
Teaching at Its Best: A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors
Call Number: Teaching LB2331 .N55 2003
For a complete list of new library resources on the topic of teaching and learning, please go to the ACTL Moodle site and visit Teaching and Learning Resources.
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