to Analyze Teaching
why your teaching works well and what improvements can be made, you need
to look at it objectively, by yourself or with a sympathetic advisor.
You can find such consultants in your supervising faculty member if you
are a TA, the colleague with whom you team teach, peers in any department,
or Teaching Resource Center staff members. Whether you work with a consultant
or alone, resultant analyses and evaluations are formative in nature:
they exist to help you improve, not to compare you with anyone else or
judge the value of your work.
tend to care so deeply about their teaching that it becomes synonymous
with themselves. Such an instructor may equate feeling unsuccessful in
the classroom with some personal lack and thus recoil from scrutinizing
what doesn't work or from allowing a colleague to see it. If you find
yourself shrinking from the thought of analyzing your teaching, feeling
that your classroom should not be "invaded" by any other instructor,
take a bold step now. The longer you delay, the more difficult the change
and the less likely you will become the really fine teacher you could.
Read on; one of the suggested analytical methods may feel comfortable
Consulting with a Colleague
information about your teaching from colleagues should not be unidirectional
or hierarchical. The best collegial assistance works in both directions
and at all levels. If you are at the lower end of the hierarchy, you will
not, of course, be able to establish such a system; but you can initiate
mutual classroom observations and/or videotapings that will benefit both
you and your colleague. Here are some suggestions:
- Begin with
someone you feel comfortable with.
that the colleague visit your class or watch with you a videotape of
one of your classes. Note aspects of your teaching you'd like an outsider's
opinion about: How clearly do you follow your stated outline? How can
you encourage all students to discuss? How could you better explain
difficult concepts? Limit your points of observation to four.
- Meet with
your observer for fifteen to thirty minutes to discuss your interests
and decide exactly what the observer will look for. What evidence will
help you analyze your questions about your teaching? If the issue is
equal participation in discussion, the observer might note how you call
on students, how much wait-time you allow, what eye contact you make
with various students, how well students pay attention, and how well
students have apparently prepared. Considering evidence rather than
impressions keeps the analysis objective.
- As class
begins, introduce the observer to the students in whatever way you prefer.
Sometimes instructors are concerned about students' reaction to an outside
observer or camera. But experience shows that although a videotaped
or observed class is, no doubt, subtly changed by the presence of an
unfamiliar person, students normally appear to forget the camera or
observer after about ten minutes. In effect, if you aren't bothered
by the camera, they won't be. Make it clear that the observer (or camera)
will help you improve your teaching.
- As soon
as possible after class, in a relaxed setting, review the observer's
notes together and draw conclusions about what the evidence means. You
may find that you focus your eye contact and questions on students in
the front. The observer may have noted that the problematic non-discussants
spent a lot of time flipping through assigned reading. By examining
appropriate detailed notes, you can draw useful conclusions yourself:
for instance, you may decide that students were flipping pages because
they were confused.
decide what few teaching changes you will make to solve each
problem. For instance, talking individually with the students who seem
unprepared is a logical first step. Making a conscious effort to look
more frequently at the students in back and calling on them directly
the observation goes well, as it will if you follow these steps, your
observer may well reciprocate. Once there taking similar notes, you will
see a number of valuable teaching strategies to try. Observing and discussing
teaching with colleagues also quickly develops and extends collegial feelings
between faculty and/or TAs inside and outside your department. If you
can be observed by a supportive senior colleague, the ensuing dialogue
about teaching can help develop a beneficial mentoring relationship.
Consulting with TRC Staff
Resource Center exists to help individual faculty members and teaching
assistants teach as effectively as they can. All consultations with TRC
staff are confidential and available only upon request from individuals.
You can call or e-mail the TRC (982- 2815, firstname.lastname@example.org)
to request an in-class observation or videotaping. From then on, the procedure
follows the interview, evidence-gathering, analysis, and evaluation stages
explained above; TRC staff members emphasize what you want to discover
about your teaching, although we can offer general reactions and suggestions
if you like.
what an in-class observer might have noted likely appears on screen, and
you can more easily analyze your own teaching. The TRC has camcorders,
blank videotapes, and staff members to videotape your class; if you wish,
you may keep a copy of your tape or use your own tape for the original.
(For more details, see Videotape
anything well involves a profound sensation of ignorance.
Ruskin, Modern Painters,
I, pt. I, ch. 2, 1843