Friday, May 22, 2009

Teaching Workshop I

I have mentioned before that I am taking a short workshop on teaching. It has been very interesting so far, and now I wish that I had taken more of these workshops during my time here!

Each session is 3.5 hours long, and there are two sessions per week. There are five sessions in total, and we have a final project due a month after the workshop ends. When I thought about 3 hours in a classroom I assumed I'd get bored no matter what the topic, but the time has flown by in class!

Generally, for each session we have readings or some other preparation to do. Not only do we learn about the topic at hand, but the facilitators also use different teaching methods during the session, so we learn about those too (and see them in action).

The first class was about teaching/learning styles and how to set learning objectives. They split us into three groups (there are about 15-20 people in the course), and each group read papers on one of the subjects. We then used the jigsaw method to learn about the other topics: first, each group discussed the paper and wrote down a summary of the major points. Then, the groups were mixed so there was at least one person from each group. At that point, each member relayed the information summarized in the first group. There was also a final activity that brought it all together.

It was really interesting to see how the different groups worked together to summarize the paper, and how each person relayed the information in the second group. A very cool way of teaching subjects that are closely related!

For the second session, we had to come up with an outline of a 50-minute class in our discipline. This included not only the content, but the pedagogy (what methods we would use to teach the material). Then, we had to choose 10 minutes of that class to actually teach. This is known as micro-teaching.

During this session, the class was split into four smaller groups. Each person in that group would give a summary of what the 50 minute class would be like, and then would give the 10 minute micro-session (this part is recorded on a DVD). The other class members, as well as the facilitator, would fill out a feedback form. After the 10 minutes is done, everyone gives their feedback orally (this is also recorded on the DVD).

This was a great exercise, although I was a bit nervous about being critiqued on my teaching abilities. Thankfully, I received glowing feedback, and was even given a couple tips to make my teaching even better. I watched myself on the DVD (which we got to keep) and I was actually impressed with myself!

The first half of the third session focused on incivilities in the classroom - both from the student and the professor. As a group, we identified many of the annoyances that crop up in the classroom (i.e., students talking on their cell phone, leaving class early, or demanding higher grades; professors being late to class, being unprepared, or bullying students). We then discussed what causes these issues on both sides (being overworked, feeling unsuccessful, poor communication, "real life", etc), and what things, as professors, we could control. It would have been helpful to discuss strategies for dealing with these issues - although this was covered in one of the assigned papers and session four will be related to this.

The second half of this session included two parallel sessions: one on group work, the other on alternative problem set strategies in science/engineering. I attended the latter. We discussed the differences between novice and expert problem solvers. For example, novices tend to only have a surface knowledge and look for the right equation, while experts have a deeper knowledge base and tend to picture what's going on before diving into the problem.

The group was then split into three groups, and we were given a certain problem set strategy to read about. After a short discussion in the small groups, each presented what their strategy was and gave an example. Some examples are the "wrong answer" strategy (give the students the solution to a problem, but there is something wrong with it - they have to find what's wrong and correct it); and the "jeopardy" strategy (give the students an equation, and they have to draw a diagram to show what's going on; basically working backwards). There were three others that I can't recall this early in the morning!

Overall, this course has been amazing so far! I have learned so much and now have a ton of great ideas to bring into the classroom if I end up teaching. It also makes me feel more confident with my abilities, especially after receiving such positive feedback from the facilitator for my micro-teaching session.

Since this post is about a mile long, I will write about the final project, as well as the last two sessions, in separate posts.